More than 6.6 million Latinos voted in the legislative elections last November, a record Hispanic turnout in a non-presidential election year, according to a new study.
The analysis by the Pew Hispanic Centre says that the percentage of the Latino electorate was also larger in the 2010 midterm elections than in earlier midterm votes, totalling 6.9% of all registered voters, compared with 5.8% in 2006.
The rapid growth in the US Latino population has favoured ever greater participation by that community in elections, with the 2010 Census finding that 50.5 million Hispanics lived in the United States last year, up from 35.3 million in 2000.
During the same decade, the number of eligible Latino voters also rose, from 13.2 million to 21.3 million.
However, although there are more Latinos now who never participate in U.S. elections, their representation within the electorate continues to be less than their weight in the general population.
In 2010, 16.3% of the US population was Hispanic, but Latinos constituted just 10.1% of those eligible to vote and less than 7% of actual voters.
Pew says this gap is due to two factors: the youth of the Latino population, nearly 35% are under 18 years, and the high proportion of Hispanic adults, 22.4%, who lack US citizenship.
Thus, just 42.7% of the US Latino population may vote, while in the case of whites that percentage is 77.7%, in the black community it is 67.2% and among Asians 52.8%.
In 2010, 31.2% of Latinos said they had voted, while 48.6% whites replied the same and 44% of African Americans. Roughly 31% of Latino eligible voters last year were between 18 and 29, while for whites that percentage was 19.2%, for blacks 25.6% and for Asians, 20.7%.
Only 17.6% of young Hispanic voters cast ballots, whereas among those age 30 and up participation was 37.4%. The difference in participation of Latinos in elections compared with other groups is also due to the rapid increase in the percentage of Latinos who could vote, but don’t.
Between 2006 and 2010, the number of Latino voters increased by 18.8%, but voter abstention among Hispanics rose by 25%. Pew also found that Latinos with bachelor’s degrees had the highest voter participation: 50.3%.
Hispanics who are naturalized US citizens are more likely to vote than Latinos born in the United States, by a margin of 36.6% to 29.2%.