Pew study: Florida most likely to be affected by growth in Hispanic voter numbers

hispanic vote (Large)

Florida is the battleground state — with both a presidential and U.S. Senate elections — where the rising number of Hispanic voters could make the most difference nationally, according to a new study from the Pew Research Center.

The dramatic increase of Hispanic voters nationwide likely will have a tempered effect on the 2016 elections in most states and nationally because Hispanic voting rates remain low overall and most new Hispanic voters are millennials, who also don’t vote in high percentages, according to the study.

Pew also finds, in its reportMillennials Make Up Almost Half of Latino Eligible Voters in 2016,” published today, that much of the Hispanic growth has been in states that are not likely to tip for either the presidential election or for senate races, such as California, Texas and New York.

Along with Florida, Nevada and Colorado are battleground states with large and rapidly-growing numbers of Hispanics. But because of the dramatic migration of ready-made voters from Puerto Rico principally to Florida, a much higher percentage of Florida’s Latinos are eligible to vote than in those two states.

“Between 2008 and 2016, a net increase of 227,000 Puerto Rican adults moved to the U.S. mainland, becoming eligible to vote in U.S. presidential elections. Florida has been the single largest destination state for most Puerto Rican migrants in recent years. As a result, Puerto Rican migrants in Florida could have a large impact on Florida’s Latino vote,” the study reports.

Among other findings, in the report co-authored by Jens Manuel Krogstad and four others at Pew:

— Nationally there will be 27.3 million eligible Latino voters available for the 2016 election, up from 23.3 million for the 2012 election. The increase is driven mostly by young voters who turned 18 in the four year period (3.2 million), followed by immigrants who became U.S. citizens (1.2 million) and a net migration from Puerto Rico (130,000). They were offset somewhat by 537,000 people who died.

— Nationally, 44 percent of all eligible Latino voters are millennials, between the ages of 18-33. That is a much higher percentage than for white, black or Asian voters. Overall, millennials make up 31 percent of the nation’s eligible voter pool.

— Yet in Florida, just 32 percent of eligible Latino voters are millennials.

— Nationally, only 48 percent of eligible Latino voters said they voted in 2012, a much lower percentage than eligible white or black voters, and about the same as eligible Asian voters. The voter turnout among millennial Latino voters was just 37.8 percent of those eligible, again much lower than white or black voters, and about the same as Asian voters.

— Among battleground states (as assessed by the Cook Political Report,) Florida has the highest percentage of Latinos among eligible voters, 18.1 percent; followed by Nevada, 17.2 percent; Colorado, 14.5 percent; and Illinois, 10.5 percent. In no other swing state do Hispanic voters make up even 5 percent of the pool of eligible voters.

— Education levels have significantly climbed among eligible Hispanic voters nationally. In 2000, just 68 percent of eligible Hispanic voters had high school diplomas and 25 percent had at least a two-year college degree. By the 2016 election, the percentage with high school diplomas is expected to reach 80 percent, ant the percentage with college degrees, 48 percent.

Scott Powers

Scott Powers is an Orlando-based political journalist with 30+ years’ experience, mostly at newspapers such as the Orlando Sentinel and the Columbus Dispatch. He covers local, state and federal politics and space news across much of Central Florida. His career earned numerous journalism awards for stories ranging from the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster to presidential elections to misplaced nuclear waste. He and his wife Connie have three grown children. Besides them, he’s into mystery and suspense books and movies, rock, blues, basketball, baseball, writing unpublished novels, and being amused. Email him at [email protected]


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