The minority groups in the United States of America have been taking part in elections since the 1960s. They have even had a number of presidential candidates, such as Jesse Jackson. However, questions still remain whether or not their participation in the electoral process impacts on the election outcomes. The US is mainly a land of immigrants. In spite of this, it is predominantly a Whiteman’s territory (Traister, 2016). During elections, the whites shape the political space. After 2008 presidential elections, the first non-white president was elected. The election of Barack Obama marked a milestone in the political reality of minorities in the US. The political spectrum in the country changed (Wong, 2015). The campaigns shifted to the growing importance of racial and ethnic minority votes.1
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Minority communities in the United States include African Americans, Indians, Latino-Americans, Asian-Americans, and a horde of other immigrants. During the 2012 election, the voices of the minority groups were heard clearly in the American political landscape. The impacts of these groups on presidential elections were also made apparent. In many instances, politicians use the plight of minorities to gain votes. The issues of immigration, for example, were at the helm of the 2016 campaigns (Traister, 2016). Latinos, as a minority community, has become a group of interest to the average American politician. The rise in their numbers and the voting patterns are slowly changing their political landscape.2
In this paper, the author will focus on Latinos as a minority group in the US presidential elections. The paper will focus on the contributions made by this community on presidential elections. The will also address the motivations behind the choices made by Latinos in the election process. Finally, the paper will highlight such factors as gender and education and their link to national presidential elections in the US.
Minority Groups in the United States and their Voting Patterns: A Case Study of Latino Voters
Some of the well-known minority communities in the United States are African-Americans, Hispanics, and Asians. Due to increased immigration, a lot of other communities are also present in the country. During the electoral process, the minority groups are historically known to vote in a particular design. The main reason for this could be the similarities between the socio-economic factors bringing these individuals together.
According to Kim (2014), these communities vote under three critical fundamental issues. The issues include the prevailing socioeconomic status, political participation factors, and cultural considerations. During elections in the United States, the identity of the minority groups is highly politicized. To this end, ethnic identity is linked to political participation. For instance, the 2011 and 2012 reforms on immigration were largely targeted at the minority groups. The reforms were used as a mobilizing effect during elections (Garcia-Rios & Barreto, 2016).3
Since the 1960s, minority communities have been voting as a bloc. Following the 2008 elections, their voting patterns confirmed the group’s allegiance to the Democratic Party as opposed to the Republican Party (Kim, 2014). The passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 has seen an increase in the registration of minority voters. Their numbers have been on the rise since then. Other contributing factors to the increased numbers include relaxed regulations with regards to immigration and participation in elections. The original regulations were harsh and mainly targeted minorities (Ford, Bardes, Schmidt, & Shelley, 2015).
For instance, the requirement for a driving license and other identification documents restricted the registration of these communities as voters in the American elections (Bardes, Shelley, & Schmidt, 2013). In particular, the rise in the number of African-American voters during registrations is largely equal to that of the whites (Goldfield, 2014). Such a change can be seen in the 2008 presidential election. During these elections, Barack Obama won with a comfortable margin in both popular and Electoral College votes.4
The data provided by the Latino National Election Study has elicited a lot of interest in the Latino votes. Politicians used this avenue to woe their votes. They used political participation and civic engagements to appeal to this group. For instance, in 2012, approximately 11.2 million Latinos voted in the presidential elections. The figure represents 52% of registered Latino voters (Doval & Garza, 2016). A look at the numbers has increased the interest of politicians in civic education among this group.
The aim of this education is to ensure that majority of the Latinos take part in the voting process. The 2016 election provided yet another platform for the Latinos to take part in American mainstream politics. Their numbers were used as collateral to advocate for their needs in society. In spite of the fact that most individuals in this group vote as Democrats, Latinos are still considered swing voters in the country’s presidential election. The reason is that the group, unlike other minority communities, does not necessarily vote as a bloc (Bardes et al., 2013). The individuals choose their leaders on the basis of policies beneficial to them.5
It is a fact that the population of the Latino community in the US is large. They are of varied race, nationalities, and tenures. The individuals in this group include those from Central America, Cuba, Puerto Rico, and Mexico. The variation dictates the differences in the voting blocs witnessed during elections (Doval & Garza, 2016). According to Adida, Davenport, and McClendon (2016), elections among the Latino community are likened to consciousness voting.
The individuals consider leaders who appeal to their needs. In addition, most of them are attracted to comprehensive policies that are able to address their issues, such as those to do with immigration. Adida et al. (2016) also support the theory that Latinos do not vote on ethnic basis. On the contrary, the sub-groups within the community experience different challenges, which determine their voting decisions. They vote according to the ability of the politicians to appeal to them, especially with regards to those leaders who appear willing to address the issues affecting this community.6 As already indicated, such issues include immigration and access to jobs and education.
The Motivations behind Latino’s Voting Designs
Latinos, like most minority groups in the US, are sensitive to the country’s immigration laws. The voters are strongly motivated by factors that directly affect their communities. For instance, the Latinos in Texas are willing to vote for any person appearing to support comprehensive immigration reforms (Sanchez, 2015). It does not matter a lot whether such a person is a Democrat, a Republican, or an independent candidate. The decision on who to vote for emerges when such candidates take clear positions on the issues affecting this community. Apart from immigration issues, the Latino community is also affected by other socioeconomic factors.
To understand their voting designs, it is important to take into consideration their levels of education and income. Other elements determining their voting patterns include age and gender (Leighley & Nagler, 2016). Other factors that motivate Latinos to vote include civil rights, health, and individual wellness (Doval & Garza, 2016).7
As of 2012, the total number of Latino voters stood at approximately 23.3 million individuals. Out of this number, 12.1 million people did not vote in the 2012 presidential elections (Doval & Garza, 2016). The swing votes, such as those associated with Latinos and other minority groups, are known to make differences in the country’s presidential elections. According to Seib (2015), in addition to white women voters, Latino voters account for a large number of the swing votes.
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To those candidates obsessed with winning, paying more attention and appealing to these unattached votes can make a huge difference in the outcomes of the elections. Because of the large number of Latinos in the US, a number of incentives have been introduced to entice the community to take part in politics. To this end, politicians have become innovative in their hunt for votes. They use all manner of things to appeal to these voters (Doval & Garza, 2016). The targeted number of 12.1 million voters is of significant interest to the political class. The 800,000 newly eligible Latino voters per year should be taken into account when formulating campaign strategies.8 Politicians cannot afford to ignore such a huge chunk of votes.
The election of Barack Obama in 2008 was an awakening call to the minority voters in the US. Ever since this election, there has been a motivation to have more representatives from the Hispanic communities. In Texas, for instance, the urge to increase the number of representatives acts as a motivation to the Latino voters. The group believes that most of the issues affecting them can be solved by increasing their representation in the political landscape (Sanchez, 2015).
Another factor that has increased the presence of Latino voters in American politics is their exposure to Spanish-language media. Garcia-Rios and Barreto (2016) add that there is a feeling of immigrant-linked fate among Hispanics. The useful information purveyed in their own language, as well as the increase in media coverage, has further motivated them to take part in elections. The feeling of belonging and the ability to participate in the new homeland politics has also played a part in increased voter turnout (Garcia-Rios & Barreto, 2016).9
The Role of Gender and other Socio-Economic Factors in Voting Patterns among Latinos
Minority communities in the US and other countries suffer from a wide array of socio-economic issues. In most cases, gender is viewed as having a direct relationship to the effects of these elements on the lives of the minorities (Carrol & Fox, 2013). Unmarried men and single women are likely to easily change most of their social and economic beliefs. On its part, gender plays a role in the selection of candidates and voting patterns among the electorates. In most cases, the affected gender is the females. Analyses of voter turnouts show that few females show up to vote compared to males.10 The discrepancies remain even in cases where there are female candidates.
The first electoral office representation for Latinos was in 1989. The first person to be elected was Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, who was of Cuban origin (Bejarano, 2014). Since then, the representation of this group in Congress has increased by over 500%. Sharrow, Strolovitch, Heaney, Masket, and Miller (2016) argue that the performance of women candidates in presidential elections is not affected significantly by their sex or that of the voters. On the contrary, the candidacy is influenced by the interaction of partisanship.11 Sharrow et al. (2016) add that the attitudes towards the perceived role of women in the society are what affect their candidacy.
The number of female minorities in politics has been on the rise in the recent past. For instance, in the 108th Congress, the number of Latino females accounted for 29% of all Latinos in the House. In the 109th Congress, the figure went up to 15.1% of all members of Congress. There were 7 Latino females, which represented 27% of the membership. Lastly, the 112th Congress of 2012 also saw an increase in the number of female Latinos (Bejarano, 2014).12
Below is a table showing the differences in voting patterns among different Latino communities in relationship to a number of social factors:
Table 1: Participation of Latinos in American presidential elections.
|LINES Latino |
|ANES Latino |
|ANES Latino |
|ANES White |
In the table above, the various subgroups of Latinos in America and their participation in American presidential elections is analyzed. The demographic traits taken into consideration include education, income, age, gender, and marital status.13 In table 2 below, level of income and its impacts on voting patterns among Latinos is taken into consideration:
Table 2: Participation in elections among Latinos by levels of income and gender.
|Income||LINES Latino Immigrant Noncitizens||LINES Latino Immigrant Citizens||ANES Latino |
|ANES Latino |
|ANES White Citizens|
|Less than $20,000||35.4%,||38.3%||44.4%||40.6%||37.0%|
|$80,000 and above||47.8%||60.2%||72.0%||49.9%||51.8%|
In tables 1 and 2 above, the factors taken into consideration include education, income, and gender. The factors have significant impacts on voting patterns among minorities. From the tables, it is clear that a rise in income levels increases the number of people turning up to vote. With regards to gender, it is evident that more men take part in the electioneering process compared to women (Leighley & Nagler, 2016).14
The gender gap has persisted in the American voting design. For instance, female voters have for a long time voted for the Democrats. On the other hand, male voters appear to lean on the side of the Republicans. It is also believed that the voting styles among women differ. To this end, working class female voters are highly attracted to Democrats, while their stay-at-home counterparts for candidates from the Republican Party.15
The same trend extends to the Latino community. The voting pattern is similarly influenced by gender, where working females and stay-at-home mums among Latinos prefer candidates that are similar to those voted in by their counterparts in the larger American society. The only exception is seen in those states where there are specific political inclinations. For instance, the states of Texas and Florida are predominantly Republican (Bejarano, 2013). Consequently, the women in these states also tend to go for Republican candidates.
The number of single women in America has increased tremendously in the recent past. Statistics show that the size of this population increased by 3.9 million individuals between 2010 and 2014. The rise in the number of single women can be attributed to, among others, the drop in number of marriages taking place in the country. The figures indicate that 14% of women with high school certificate and 10% of those with a Bachelors degree remained single between 2008 and 2010 (Traister, 2016).
Politicians can make use of these numbers as these individuals are normally considered as swing voters. The participation of female voters in elections increases in cases where high profile female officials conduct campaigns and mobilization (Binder, Kogan, Kousser, & Panagopoulos, 2014).16 Politicians can take advantage of this to shore up the number of female Latinos taking part in elections.
Education is another factor that determines voting patterns among minority groups, Latinos included. The enactment of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 marked the beginning of minority revolution in the country. It led to the abolishment of discrimination against persons on the basis of race, color, and nationality. In addition, the law prohibited arbitrary discrimination against individuals during voter registration. The legislation was followed by the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
The two laws have enhanced civic education in the society. Consequently, participation in the political space among minorities has increased in the recent past. Latinos have wrestled political power from dominant groups in several states in spite of the fact that majority of them lack legal American citizenship.17 The number has gone up to 5000 elected Latino officials in the US (Bardes et al., 2013).
The gender gap in minority group’s electoral participation is attributed to education, age, and economic status. Other socioeconomic factors, such as marriage, may also contribute to these discrepancies (Ansolabehere & Hersh, 2013).18 The table below is a reflection of the link between levels of education and participation in elections among Latinos in the US:
Table 3: Participation of Latinos in elections and levels of education.
|LINES Latino |
|LINES Latino |
|ANES Latino |
|ANES White |
Less than high school
High school graduate
|28.6%, (331) |
|40.9%, (187) |
|42.8%, (51) |
|39.8%, (30) |
|35.2%, (216) |
From the table above, it is evident that level of education has significant impacts on the voting process.19 An increase in level of education translates to a rise in the number of people who turn out to vote (Leighley & Nagler, 2016). The relationship between the two attributes is similar among the four Latino sub-groups in the US.
Impacts of Latino Voters on Presidential Elections in the United States
As a minority group, Latinos represent one of the fastest growing segments of the US population. Their number has increased by more than 43% between 2000 and 2010 (Bell, 2016). They are regarded as the “majority minority” in the country. In 2014, there were 55 million people who identified as Latinos in the US. The figure represents 17% of the total population in the US (Bell, 2016). During the 2016 elections, 27.3 million eligible voters were of Latino descent.
The figure represented 11.3% of the total number of valid votes. Taking into consideration the voting patterns among this group, it was expected that their turnout to vote will increase by 17% compared to the 2012 presidential election. Large states, such as Colorado and Mexico, have large numbers of swing Latino votes. The reason is that Latinos do not vote as a bloc compared to blacks, non-Hispanics, and whites. Their voting patterns are informed by the policies articulated by the candidates. The various sub-groups have their own issues that need attention from the leaders.20 They choose their leaders on the basis of these issues (Goldfield, 2014).
Historically, Latinos are known to predominantly support candidates from the Democratic Party. However, this notion is changing. States with majority of Latino voters, such as Texas, have seen shifts to the Republican side. The impact of this dynamism on presidential elections entails changes in the number of voters supporting a given candidate. Minority groups are projected to account for more than 50% of electorates by 2040 (Goldfield, 2014). By 2050, the Latinos are projected to be 35% of the US population. The figure is up from 6.5% in 1980. For the American politicians to have Latinos on their side, they should formulate policies and strategies that comprehensively tackle the immigration issues, education, health and other socioeconomic factors affecting the community (Wong, 2015).21
During the 2012 presidential elections, 71% of Latinos voted for Barack Obama. The number was a rise from 67% in 2008 (Logan, Darrah, & Oh, 2012). A research conducted by Chu and Posner (2015) shows that states like Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, New Mexico, and Nevada have large populations of Hispanics. However, the voter turnout in these regions is low. The states represent unattached voters that politicians should take advantage of.
However, Chu and Posner (2015) explain that states like Nevada may be more Democrat, while Colorado and Arizona may lean towards the Republicans. In Florida, Latino votes sway during voting and only politicians with appealing policies can hold to them (Chu & Posner, 2015). Another important thing to note with regards to the impacts of the Latino bloc on election outcomes is the ability of the candidates to tackle not just immigration issues, but also poverty, healthcare, and economic growth. Doval and Garza (2016) conclude that the group’s consciousness in relation to people, family, and friends with similar conditions may surpass the unforeseen block that may be associated with ethnic groups.22
The Effects of Leadership Choices on the Latino Community
The 2014 Latino Victory Project Survey indicates that 37% of these voters participate in elections for various reasons (Chu & Posner, 2015). First, they vote to “support and represent” their group. What this means is that the group requires their community to be represented in national politics. They also seek support for their leaders. In addition, the Latino vote is important to presidential elections given that their choices are not limited to the party candidate (Doval & Garza, 2016).
Latinos have voted for the Democratic Party in every presidential election since 1960. For instance, Bill Clinton got 72% of these votes in 1996. On his part, Barack Obama got 71% in 2012. The most significant beneficiaries from the Republican Party are Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush. The two received 37% in 1984 and 40% in 2004 respectively.23
To some extent, the skewed voting pattern has affected the Latino community. The effects of their choices are largely determined by the Republicans. The party has put in place various legislations targeted at minority groups and specifically at Latinos (Adida et al., 2016). For instance, the Republicans used the Three Factors rule to deter the minorities from voting. First, there were regulations that required everyone to have identification documents, including a driving license, in order to vote.
Such regulations were unfriendly to the Latinos. Most Latino families live in poverty and cannot afford cars. Secondly, the issue of absentee voting has also been used to discourage the minorities from taking part in elections. The strict requirements locked out many people from the process. Compared to places where people can email their ballots, absentee voting and such other measures reduce turnout. The third case is the bureaucracy associated with voter registration. Most individuals from highly restricted states where closing dates are early miss on registration. Most of these states are predominantly occupied by minority groups (Logan et al., 2012).24
After the 2012 presidential elections, the loss of Mitt Romney opened another chapter for the Republicans. The party’s national committee commissioned the Growth and National Project to find out the reasons behind the failure. The committee was to analyze the impacts of a number of hitherto ignored voters, such as the Latinos, on election outcomes. One of the recommendations made was to pay close attention to the growing number of Hispanics in the US (Bell, 2016). The party also resolved to abandon the immigrant attitude that was associated with Latinos and other minority groups.25
Significant Changes in Voting Patterns among the Latinos
Latinos have started to identify themselves as US citizens. The reason is the increased representation of this group in national politics. It is also because of the reducing numbers of undocumented citizens in the country. In addition, the involvement of Latino advocacy groups in the affairs of the community has led to changes in the status quo. It is also worth noting that the economic status of the Hispanic community is changing, albeit slightly.
There was a rise in levels of education and a reduction in deportations targeted at this group, especially during the Obama administration (Leighley & Nagler, 2016). However, things may change under Donald Trump given the strict immigration regulations of the new regime. Parties have engaged in serious mobilization of Latino voters. The use of direct mailing campaign is appealing to most people (Binder et al., 2014).26
In spite of the prevailing historical patterns, the Democrats should not sit down and expect the Latino votes to come to them. The pattern is slowly changing and the Republicans are winning the hearts of voters in most Hispanic states. Strategies to win this vote-rich community should be the priority of each party and other politicians interested in winning the American presidential elections (Bell, 2016).
Another reason that makes the Latino votes to shift is their voting patterns. Most of them do not vote en masse. On the contrary, they follow ideologies. The party with the most appealing policies always wins the Latino vote. For politicians to capture this vote bloc, they should understand the changes in their voting designs and come up with strategies to address them in the future (Adida et al., 2016).27
A significant portion of the US population is made up of immigrants. In the recent past, historic demographic shifts have been witnessed. It is projected that the people of color will form the majority of the population by 2044. The trajectory path may seem long, but the effects of these changes in areas like politics are being felt today. The number of people from the minority groups is on the rise. The most significant of this is the sharp increase in the Latino population. The implications of this community in presidential elections were apparent in the election of Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012. Studies show an increase in voter turnout among these groups. The effects were also evident in the 2016 presidential elections.
Demographic shifts translate to changes in allegiance to party politics. The Latino community pays attention to, among other things, immigration issues, education, healthcare, and economic growth. Most of these factors shape their political inclinations. As such, politicians should craft policies that are aimed at addressing most of these issues to appeal to this community. The impacts of the Hispanic voters on presidential elections cannot be ignored any longer. Politicians must come up with strategies to encourage a bloc-voting pattern among individuals from this community.
Adida, C., Davenport, L., & McClendon, G. (2016). Ethnic cueing across minorities: A survey experiment on candidate evaluation in the United States. Public Opinion Quarterly, 80(4), 815-836.
Ansolabehere, S., & Hersh, E. (2013). Gender, race, age, and voting: A research note. Politics and Governance, 1(2), 132-137.
Bardes, B., Shelley, M., & Schmidt, S. (2013). American government and politics today: The essentials (17th ed.). New York, NY: Wadsworth Publishing.
Bejarano, C. (2014). The Latina advantage: Gender, race, and political success. Upper-Saddle River, NJ: University of Texas Press.
Bell, A. (2016). The role of the Latino vote in the 2016 elections. Web.
Binder, M., Kogan, V., Kousser, T., & Panagopoulos, C. (2014). Mobilizing Latino voters: The impact of language and co-ethnic policy leadership. American Politics Research, 42(4), 677-699.
Carrol, S., & Fox, R. (Eds.). (2013). Gender and elections: Shaping the future of American politics (3rd ed.). London, UK: Cambridge University Press.
Chu, A., & Posner, C. (2015). How the rising share of Latino voters will impact the 2016 elections. Web.
Doval, C., & Garza, V. (2016). What will it take to awaken the sleeping giant?: Latino issues in the 2016 presidential election. Harvard Journal of Hispanic Policy. Web.
Ford, L., Bardes, B., Schmidt, S., & Shelley, M. (2015). American government and politics today (17th ed.). New York, NY: Cengage Learning.
Garcia-Rios, S., & Barreto, M. (2016). Politicized immigrant identity, Spanish-language media, and political mobilization in 2012. The Russell Sage Foundation Journal of the Social Sciences, 2(3), 78-96.
Goldfield, D. (2014). What we can learn about American from the 2012 presidential election. American Studies Journal, 58. Web.
Kim, J. (2014). Minority voting factors. Web.
Leighley, J., & Nagler, J. (2016). Latino electoral participation: Variations on demographics and ethnicity. The Russell Foundation Journal of the Social Sciences, 2(3), 148-164.
Logan, J., Darrah, J., & Oh, S. (2012). The impact of race and ethnicity, immigration, and political context on participation in American electoral politics. Social Forces, 90(3). Web.
Sanchez, G. (Ed.). (2015). Latinos and the 2012 election: The new face of the American voter. New York, NY: Michigan State University Press.
Seib, G. (2015). Who will be the swing voters in 2016?. The Wall Street Journal. Web.
Sharrow, E., Strolovitch, D., Heaney, M., Masket, S., & Miller, J. (2016). Gender attitudes, gendered partisanship: Feminism and support for Sarah Palin and Hillary Clinton among party activists. Journal of Women, Politics & Policy, 37(4), 394-416.
Traister, R. (2016). All the single ladies: Unmarried women and the rise of an independent nation. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster.
Wong, J. (2015). The role of born-again identity on the political attitudes of whites, blacks, Latinos, and Asian Americans. Politics and Religion, 8(4), 641-678.
- The voting patterns of minority groups are quickly changing from the Democrats.
- Some of the factors affecting minorities besides immigration include education, healthcare, and economic growth.
- Other minority groups include the Indians and other small communities from Central and South America.
- The feeling of belonging to the United States by the minority groups has also increased their numbers.
- The total number of eligible Latino voters is 23.3 million.
- Latino community undergoes similar situations. The need for solutions can bring different groups together during elections. At this point, it can be considered as bloc voting.
- The motivation behind voting patterns can also be influenced by the recognition of their impacts on the election process.
- Latinos are considered swing voters because some do not have political alignments. Others have never participated in elections due to lack of documentation.
- Civic education and mobilization of the Latino group also enhances their motivation to vote.
- The statistics show that there are rising numbers of female candidates in the United States. The number is influenced by the change of attitudes among female voters when it comes to their participation in the electoral process.
- The experiences and performance of female Latino politicians appear to be affected significantly by their gender. This is in spite of the arguments made by Sharrow et al. (2016) and other scholars to the contrary.
- The representation of Latinos has increased due to increased voter registration that is projected to rise by 17% in the coming elections.
- The issues affecting this group are not limited to the ones indicated here.
- Income influences voting patterns. Increased earning leads to a rise in the confidence of voters. This is also believed to correlate with education. It gives the voters more choices and increased exposure.
- Politicians use such information as gender, profession, and age to formulate their strategies and identify voters that should be targeted.
- Single women are known to be independent. Their choices are also related to education and income levels. This explains the increase in number of female voters in the recent past.
- Individuals cannot participate in the American elections if they lack legal identification documents.
- Increased formal and civic education leads to a rise in the number of voters.
- Other attributes, such as level of income, compound the relationship further.
- The Latino voters are projected to reach 35% of the American voters in 2050. The trend can be used to determine their numbers in 2020 when all factors remain constant.
- The political alignment among Democrats will soon be replaced by party policies within the Latino community.
- The swing Latino votes are at a vulnerable stage as far as politicians are concerned. The wide array of issues affecting this community can be used by politicians who do not deliver to earn their votes.
- Political alliances are influenced significantly by the Latinos in their quest for better services.
- The large number of undocumented Latinos was due to direct sabotage by the Republicans to ensure that their numbers remained low during presidential elections. However, the courts have issued injunctions that put to a halt the regulations passed by the Republicans.
- The Republicans were forced by the rising numbers to consider their stand on the Latino community. The taskforce was mandated to identify reasons for the party’s failure among these minorities.
- The national presence of the Latinos is slowly changing due to the increased economic growth.
- The spread of the Latino community and civic education is changing their voting patterns.