Pew analysis: Latino voters are many -- but not as many as they could be

Los Angeles Times

Despite strong recent turnouts at the polls, Latinos trail other groups when it comes to voting, according to an analysis of census data released Tuesday by the Pew Hispanic Center.

More than 6.6 million Latinos went to the polls in the recent November midterm election, making the group a rich prize for Democrats and Republicans in the 2012 cycle, which includes a battle for the presidency and control of both houses of Congress. The growing Latino population, particularly in the Southwest and West, makes the group a pillar of support  for Democrats, who have been the beneficiaries of votes by Latinos, who generally favor the party’s position on immigration reform.

The strong 2010 turnout represents about 6.9% of all voters, up from 5.8% in 2006, according to the Pew Hispanic Center, a project of the Pew Research Center. But the turnout rate for  Latinos actually fell, down from 32.3% in 2006 to 31.2% in 2010, lagging behind other groups. About 48.6% of eligible whites and 44% of blacks said they voted in 2010.

The seeming paradox of more voters as the turnout rate drops is caused by rapid population growth, particularly among the young and those who are not citizens, according to Pew.

About 50.5 million Latinos were counted in the 2010 census, up from 35.3 million in 2000. The number of adults who were eligible to vote grew significantly, from 13.2 million in 2000 to 21.3 million in 2010.

Despite that growth, Latinos made up only 10.1% of the nation’s eligible voters -- though they were 16.3% of the general population. About 35% of Latinos are younger than the voting age of 18, and another 22.4%, who are old enough to vote, are not U.S. citizens, according to Pew.

That means the pool of Latino voters is smaller than those of other groups: 42.7% of the nation's Latino population is eligible to vote, but 77.7% of whites and 67.2% of blacks are eligible. More than half of Asians, 52.8%, are eligible to vote.

More than half of the U.S. population growth was within the Latino community, making it a favorite of businesses seeking to sell products and politicians seeking to curry votes. Most polls show Latinos to be a solid part of the Democratic coalition, with President Obama handily winning the group in 2008. Congressional Democrats also benefited in 2010.

Latinos’ voting rates also vary by country of origin, according to Pew. About 49.3% of Cuban origin voted in 2010, compared with 29.6% of those of Puerto Rican origin and 28.7% of Mexican origin.

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