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When Reagan was first elected, only one percent of voters (and six percent of the population) were Hispanic.  Just five years previously, jurisdictions with Hispanic voters had been added to the list of areas covered by the Voting Rights Act.  

In 2008, after a rapid increase in participation, the Latino proportion of the electorate had increased almost tenfold (in part because of immigration) to 9% (compared to 15% of the population).  Here's a comparison of 2004 and 2008:

Click to enlarge.

The most striking feature of the map is the increase in the Latino electorate in the South and other areas outside the Southwest.  

Ten Second Summary

The Latino electorate is growing around the country, not just in the Southwest.  Again, we see that we are not all alike, and more demographically uniform communities are more uniform in voting behavior as well.

The Usual Suspects
In 1848 the Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo ending the war with Mexico provided for Mexican citizens living in territory ceded to the United States to become US citizens and vote.  Most did indeed become citizens, and various states wasted no time in denying them the right to vote.

In 2008, seven states had more than 10% of the exit poll respondents describe themselves as Latino.  Among them, there was essentially no change between 2004 and 2008 in Texas and Florida, and a slight decrease in California.  The rest of the Southwest showed dramatic increases: from 8% of the electorate in 2003 to 13% of the electorate in 2008 (+63%) in Colorado, 10% to 15% in Nevada (+50%), 32% to 41% in New Mexico (+28%), and 12% to 16% in Arizona (+33%).  The states without much change had the same status in 2004 and 2008 - uncompetitive for TX and CA, battleground for FL.  The states with large increases, however, became fierce battlegrounds on the presidential level in 2008 - except for Arizona, which had some attention at the last minute - implying that campaigning and organizing likely played a large role in increasing the Latino electorate in this region.

The New South

A sixty percent increase in the share of the electorate that is Latino as we see in Colorado is damn impressive.

But how about a more than 400% increase?  That's what we saw in Mississippi, which went from less than 1% Latino in 2004 to 4% in 2008.

Now, since we're looking at such small numbers, maybe we just see a statistical burp in Mississippi.  Let's look elsewhere -  we see a 300% increase in West Virginia, South Dakota, Montana, and Alabama.  A 250% increase in Maryland.  A 200% increase in South Carolina, North Carolina, Arkansas, Iowa, and Minnesota.  A 100% increase in Louisiana, Kentucky, Tennessee, Missouri, North Dakota, Alaska, and New Hampshire.

These are all states that had a 0-3% Latino share of the electorate in 2004 and 2-7% in 2008.  While that's small, it's enough now to be critical in close elections - such as the North Carolina race for president.

The interesting bit is that most of these states with dramatic growth have a geographic sweep, from the Deep South up to the Northern Plains (skipping the Southern Plains and most of the Midwest).  Latino voters are clearly one important component of the New South.


All these single digit numbers still make me a bit twitchy, so I pulled up some 2000 Census data to look for some confirmation.  It turns out there is a relationship between states with a rapidly increasing Latino share of the electorate and states with a high Latino growth rate, especially those with a high proportion of Latinos who say they moved to that state within five years preceding the census.  It's a rough relationship, as we would expect when dealing with small numbers, but it looks real.  We can conclude that the Latino vote is indeed increasing rapidly in large portions of the country.

The Votes

Here's how various Latino and Hispanic communities voted at the presidential level in 2008.  Brazilian, which would not typically be considered Latino, and Guyanese are included simply because of geography.

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Click to enlarge.

Support for Obama ranged from high to overwhelmingly high - except for the Cuban community in Miami-Dade county.  This year, a nationwide Latino exit poll (conducted by email) by the William C. Velásquez Institute (WCVI) showed nearly the same results as the National Election Pool exit poll - about 70% for Obama.  (In 2004, the National Election Pool had some problems, such as oversampling the Cuban community.)  

If we weight each Latino community by its proportion in the Latino electorate, we would come up with about 85% for Obama nationwide.  This means the communities used to derive support levels for Obama were more Democratic than the nationwide Latino electorate.  We see good evidence for this in the Mexican-American community.  In Starr County and select precincts in Los Angeles, more than 95% of the population is Latino, and almost all of them are Mexican-American.  Support for Obama in these two locations ran about 10 points higher than support among Mexican-Americans nationwide in the WCVI poll.

We can also see, as with African-Americans, that approval of President Bush in 2005-2006 was greater among Latinos who lived in states where Latinos made up a small proportion of the population, although the trend is much weaker than among African-Americans.  Once again, it appears that people tend to vote more uniformly in more ethnically uniform geographies.

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Click to enlarge.

Note on names:  current exit polls use the term "Latino," so that is what I am using for current data, simply because the data under discussion results from those willing to check a box that says "Latino."  As far as I know this is not a term with universal approval from those to which it is applied.

This diary is the tenth in a series taking a close look at the 2008 electorate and exploring three themes: diversity within demographics, progressive feedback loops, and demographic change.  

Tomorrow: The European American Electorate: Tribal Politics Persist

Cross posted at Open Left.

Diaries in this series (updated list):

Looking Back
Alternate History
Why Republicans Should Be Really Scared
African-Americans – We Are Not All of Us Alike
East and South Asian Americans – Diverse and Growing
West Asian Americans – Rapid Change
Native Americans – Increasing Participation
Islander Americans – In Need of More Representation
Native Alaskans – An Economic Factor?
Latino Electorate – Increasing Influence
European-Americans – Tribal Politics Persist
“Americans” – You Might Be Surprised
Appalachia – Surprisingly Democratic
Why Republicans Should Be Really, Really Scared
Why Republicans Should Be Really, Really, Really Scared
A Few More Tidbits

Related 2008 electorate diaries:
Maps: Blue America and the Changing Electorate
Maps: Obama and White Evangelicals

Originally posted to dreaminonempty on Mon Nov 09, 2009 at 07:10 AM PST.


Do you speak Spanish?

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| 77 votes | Vote | Results

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Comment Preferences

  •  I've got a fair amount of vocabulary (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    But not conversant.  Comes from living in Nuevo Mexico, where lots of phrases are worked into it.  I even post diaries with Spanish titles occasionally...

    Grab all the joy you can. (exmearden, 8/30/09)

    by Land of Enchantment on Mon Nov 09, 2009 at 07:35:01 AM PST

  •  P.S. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    sberel, Nulwee

    I'm really enjoying this series.

    Grab all the joy you can. (exmearden, 8/30/09)

    by Land of Enchantment on Mon Nov 09, 2009 at 07:38:21 AM PST

  •  Sí, el español es una des las lenguas (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    que estudio. Una lengua muy útil en los Estados Unidos, pero aquí el francés es más útil porque estamos cerca de la frontera con Quebec. Sin embargo, creo que el español es muy bello, y quiero hablarlo mejor.

    NY-23 to Hoffman, Palin, Beck and Limbaugh: "Thanks, but no thanks!"

    by AtomikNY on Mon Nov 09, 2009 at 07:39:31 AM PST

  •  Now this is a diary! (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Substantive. relevant and encouraging! Thank you for this work. Latino political clout is growing and this should bode well for Democrats. There is a growing effort here in Minnesota to be more systematic and sustained in our organizing work in Latino communities around the state. It takes time and sustained effort.

    Jack in Minneapolis

    •  You forgot BREAKING! (0+ / 0-)

      I think sustained effort is key.  The land of lefsa and lutefisk has a beautiful new influx of immigrant communities that have been welcomed, as far as I can gather, very openly compared to other places.  Minnesota's 19th century immigrants seemed to have shaped its political culture for the last century (more on this tomorrow).  Here's to Hmong bachelor farmers and halal hot dishes!

  •  The numbers in Bronx NY are interesting (0+ / 0-)

    now, here I go, headed toward the ecological fallacy I warned you about just last week but ....

    NY-12 - 86% for Obama (that's mostly Queens, and 45% Hispanic

    NY-15 - 93% for Obama - Bronx and Manhattan, 48% Hispanic

    and then

    NY-16 - 95% for Obama - that's all Bronx.  It's the most Democratic district in the country.  It's also 63% Hispanic.  

    We all differ in ways that matter. But we're all the same in the ways that matter most.

    by plf515 on Tue Nov 10, 2009 at 03:33:58 AM PST

    •  New York City (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      Is the most amazingly diverse part of this country; I had a lot of fun looking through the demographic statistics there.  

      •  It's even more fun to live here! (0+ / 0-)

        I read somewhere that Queens is the most ethnically diverse county in the USA.  It is also the only county where the median income for Blacks is higher than that for Whites.

        In Manhattan, the Jewish delis have Mexican cooks and Puerto Rican delivery people.

        We all differ in ways that matter. But we're all the same in the ways that matter most.

        by plf515 on Tue Nov 10, 2009 at 09:17:28 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  Hispanics vote at very low rates (0+ / 0-)

    compared to Whites or Blacks, who vote at roughly equal rates, nationwide.  In 2004 (I'm pretty sure this is 2004, might be 2000) the census estimated that, of those eligible to vote:

    65% of Whites voted
    60% of Blacks voted
    44% of Asians voted
    47% of Hispanics voted

    If Asians and Hispanics voted at the rates of Whites or Blacks, it would mean huge gains for the Democrats.

    We all differ in ways that matter. But we're all the same in the ways that matter most.

    by plf515 on Tue Nov 10, 2009 at 03:40:47 AM PST

    •  2008 census numbers (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      66% of Whites
      65% of Blacks
      48% of Asians
      50% of Hispanics

      A slight increase.  And this was after perhaps the best field operation Democrats have ever had.

      OK, now I'm curious, going back to 1980 stats:

      63% of Whites
      52% of Blacks
      44% of Hispanics

      Hmmm. Interesting.

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