2014: Latino Turnout Plummeted

FASTEST-GROWING DEMOGRAPHIC DIDN’T SHOW UP FOR MIDTERMS …

We know turnout was down in 2014.  To be precise, it took a historic nosedive – plummeting to levels not seen in nearly three-quarters of a century.  But we also know about the rapid ascendance of Latino voters – most of whom vote Democratic.  Wasn’t this rising tide supposed to help gird against this pervasive lack of voter enthusiasm?

How could it not?  After all, a recent Pew Hispanic Center report found that two out of every five new voters in America over the next decade-and-a-half are projected to be Latino voters – which would raise the Hispanic voting population from 23.7 million to 40 million.  The Latino voting bloc was “an awakened giant,” the report’s authors concluded.

But did that giant drift of to sleep last November?  UCLA professor Matt A. Barreto – co-founder of the polling and research firm Latino Decisions – has the answer.

“While turnout was generally low in 2014, among Latino registered voters it was even lower,” Barreto reported this week.

In fact Barreto’s firm released the following “turnout table” showing the drop-off …

turnout_table_20141

This decline had a considerable electoral impact, too.

“Latino turnout in Florida was only 36.5 percent compared to 50.5 percent statewide,” Barreto wrote. “In 2010, Census data suggest the Latino turnout rate was roughly equal to non-Latino turnout in Florida. In 2014, there was a significant decline in Latino turnout in Florida. In fact, if Latino turnout rate had been equivalent to the statewide average–as it was in 2010–an additional 276,000 Latino votes would have been cast. Given the Florida Governor’s election was decided by just 64,000 votes, those additional 276,000 Latino votes could have proved critical.”

Barreto also cited the U.S. Senate race in Colorado, which saw Republican challenger Cory Gardner defeat Democrat Mark Udall by roughly 40,000 votes (out of more than two million ballots cast).

“Latino turnout was 54.8 percent compared to 71.3 percent statewide among active registered voters in 2014,” Barreto wrote.  “Had Latino turnout been equivalent to the statewide average about 52,000 additional Latino votes would have been cast.”

What drove this nationwide decline?  Barreto doesn’t speculate on specific issues.  In some cases he said the drop-offs resulted from too few competitive statewide races, while in other instances he cited “a lack of effort in mobilizing and connecting with the Latino electorate.”

“Few Americans will rush to the polling booth if they don’t think the candidates care about their community or issues important to them,” he wrote.  “Or if they don’t see much differentiation between the two options. This is not to say that no 2014 candidates cared about Latinos, certainly many did; or that there were not stark differences between their issues, certainly there were. Rather, the data here suggest that candidates in 2014 did not do a good enough job convincing Latino voters that they truly cared, or that they would stand for their issues.”

That’s true – and it’s something strategists in both parties will be parsing in advance of the 2016 cycle in an effort to separate state-by-state anomalies from a broader national trend.

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