Projecting the Hispanic Vote

My CIS colleague Steve Camarota has projected the likely Hispanic share of vote in the upcoming election at 8.9 percent nationally, based on trends in population and turnout. This is in line with other estimates, and serves as a baseline to judge the actual results; anything more than a few tenths of a point higher would suggest greater enthusiasm for Obama than expected among Hispanic voters, and anything more than a few tenths of a point lower would suggest flagging enthusiasm — something the White House is very afraid of. (FWIW, the Center’s estimate before the 2010 election was within a tenth of a point of the final result.)

The breakdowns of the battleground states was also interesting. Using Cook’s categories, Hispanics will be 8 percent of voters in “toss-up” states, 2.8 percent in “leaning” states, and 9.8 percent in “likely” decided states (though only 4.4 percent if you remove New Mexico).

The voters that fall under this “Hispanic” rubric (whether they actually see themselves that way or not) are an important group and Republicans are right to market their message of freedom, tradition, strength, and sovereignty to them. But the report includes two points that should calm GOP hysteria over this group of voters. First, a large shift in the Hispanic vote could still be swamped by a small shift in a larger voter group. As Steve writes, “nationally if a candidate increased his share of the Hispanic vote by 5 percentage points, but in doing so lost 0.7 percentage points of the [non-Hispanic] white vote, the candidate would be worse off.”

What’s more, the electorate is comprised of many overlapping groups, and any one of them can claim to be responsible for the winning (or losing) margin. Steve writes:

Small changes in many different groups can decide elections. To give just a few examples, in 2008 7 percent of the electorate were high school dropouts, 10 percent were in families with incomes under $30,000, 12 percent were veterans, 18 percent had family income above $100,000, 19 percent were over age 65, and 20 percent were renters. A small change in how any of these groups vote could make the difference in a state. There are an enormous number of potential voting blocs, all of which overlap and all of which could be seen as deciding a close election. It would be a gross oversimplification to think of the electorate one-dimensionally. Religion, education, income, gender, occupation, marital status, age, and other factors have all been shown to influence voting decisions. Ethnicity is one of many factors that may impact the outcome of the 2012 presidential election. And it is not at all clear that ethnicity is the most important.

Unfortunately, too many Republican campaign consultants have internalized the leftist obsession with race, causing them to fall into the trap of thinking that they can’t win unless they adopt wholesale the political agenda of the National Council of La Raza.

Mark Krikorian — Mark Krikorian, a nationally recognized expert on immigration issues, has served as Executive Director of the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) since 1995.

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