Dynamics of the Latino Electorate:
Shaping the 2016 Elections

Candidates must do more to capture the Latino vote

Data shows parties are neglecting potential of voters

By David Castro, Associate Director, Web and Editorial Content

Amid media reports of pessimism about this year’s election, the Latino community is rising up to say we matter too, and are enthusiastic about using our vote. But the two major parties are not doing much to court these voters, said members of a panel discussion held today in our headquarters. 

With more than 80% of registered Latinos voting in presidential elections, it is clear that Hispanic support is needed to win the White House.

In 2012, Hispanic support was an essential factor to the presidential race, as well as many state and local races. But these powerful numbers have not resulted in sustained outreach to our community, according to the event’s panelists.

“The Latino community—and the electorate across the country—benefits when both parties are courting it equally aggressively,” said Clarissa Martínez de Castro, NCLR Deputy Vice President. But that is not happening in 2016.

On the one hand, it’s a matter of demographics—a large percentage of the U.S. Hispanic population lives in states that are not considered battlegrounds in presidential elections, such as California and Texas. This causes campaigns to not allocate resources to push new voter registrations there, Martínez de Castro explained.

“Candidates look at the pie that’s already cooked and try to slice it in a way that they can win it,” she said.

Additionally, the lack of outreach to our community has deeper consequences beyond Election Day.

“It is a choice that the parties make, and the choices they leave Latinos with. If there’s no outreach, and there’s no meaningful progress on issues that the community cares about, that’s what creates the decision for the voter on where they vote,” Martínez de Castro added.

Story continues after the video.

Candidates and issues matter

“We hear that these are the two most unpopular candidates in American history. But that’s not really true in the Hispanic community,” said Sylvia Manzano, Principal at Latino Decisions, in reference to a recent poll they conducted among Latino voters.

Among those polled, she said, 70% expect to vote for Hillary Clinton, while 19% expect to vote for Donald Trump. At the same time, as a nonpartisan organization, NCLR has made clear that Democrats have not “sealed the deal” with Latinos.

There is no “Democratic gene,” in the Hispanic community, Martínez de Castro said. “At the end of the day, candidates matter, issues matter, and meaningful outreach is essential.”

Pinning down the disconnect

Between 2000 and 2012, the number of Latinos voting grew by 89%. And these voters are engaged—76% believe it’s more important to vote this year than in 2012.

However, 60% reported that “over the past few months” no one from a campaign, political party, or community organization has asked them to register or to come out to vote. In other words, there is a disconnect between the growing numbers of Latino voters, their belief in the importance of this election, and the actual outreach they receive.

But there are some encouraging signs at the state level, Manzano said. In swing states with high Latino populations, such as Florida, Nevada, and Colorado, she said, “you do see higher [Latino] registration and turnout rates because people are talking to them… and vying for their votes.” As different states become more competitive in national elections, it’s up to both parties to commit sustained, meaningful resources to capture Latino voters with candidates and issues that speak to their concerns.

Activating the youth vote

Maria Urbina, Vice President of Politics and National Campaigns at Voto Latino, spoke about her organization’s work to get young Latinos involved during and beyond election years. She presented results of a recent poll of Latina millennials, which found that equal pay and paid family leave were the top two issues they care about. There is a considerable percentage of young families in our community, so this is an issue that would be important to these women on a personal level, Urbina said.

Young Latinos also play a significant role in their families. They are often the leaders in their homes—they are the translators for their families and act as information centers to engage with the wider society. So they would find the issue of paid family leave important, because it is something they see as necessary for their families, she said, and it’s something that could get them to the polls.

The panel discussion was moderated by Univision political correspondent Fernando Pizarro. NCLR President and CEO Janet Murguía opened the session.

“For anyone who cares about good schools, safe streets, healthy communities, a better economy, sound immigration policies, or a strong and inclusive society, the growth of the Latino electorate should be a welcome development, because those issues move our community,” Murguía said.