12/06/2007 - After spending the first part of this decade loosening their historic ties to the Democratic Party, Hispanic voters have reversed course in the past year, a new nationwide survey of Latinos by the Pew Hispanic Center has found.
Some 57% of Hispanic registered voters now call themselves Democrats or say they lean to the Democratic Party, while just 23% align with the Republican Party – meaning there is now a 34 percentage point gap in partisan affiliation among Latinos. In July, 2006, the same gap was just 21 percentage points – whereas back in 1999, it had been 33 percentage points.
The new survey finds that a plurality of Hispanics view the Democratic Party rather than the Republican Party as the one that shows more concern for Latinos and does a better job on the issue of illegal immigration (although a substantial minority of Latinos see no difference between the parties on these matters). Also, many more Latinos say the policies of the Bush Administration have been harmful to Latinos than say they have been helpful.
Hispanics are the nation's largest and fastest growing minority group; at 46 million strong, they make up about 15% of the U.S. population. Their electoral clout continues to be undercut, however, by the fact that many are ineligible to vote, either because they are not citizens or not yet 18 years old. In 2008, Latinos will comprise about 9% of the eligible electorate nationwide. If past turnout trends persist, they will make up only about 6.5% of those who actually turn out to vote next November.
But despite these modest numbers, Hispanics loom as a potential "swing vote" in next year's presidential race. That's because they are strategically located on the 2008 Electoral College map. Hispanics constitute a sizable share of the electorate in four of the six states that President Bush carried by margins of five percentage points or fewer in 2004 –New Mexico (where Hispanics make up 37% of state's eligible electorate); Florida (14%); Nevada (12%) and Colorado (12%). All four are expected to be closely contested once again in 2008.
Read the full report Hispanics and the 2008 Election: A Swing Vote? on the Pew Hispanic Center Web site.