As Census data recently showed, the Hispanic electorate is booming, and it's predicted to continue growing at a pace that could reshape American politics for decades to come. That's a good thing for Democrats, it seems, since Hispanics tend to vote for them.
But after studying demographics, polling, and turnout data over multiple decades, Miller-McCune's Norman Nie concludes that Hispanics aren't strongly affiliated with one party or another, and that the parties will have to fight over them:
In the aggregate, Democrats maintained about a 20 to 25 percent advantage in party identification among Hispanics in midterm elections between 1978 and 2010. This gap would appear to provide a clear mobilization advantage for Democratic candidates, akin to what is seen among blacks.
As with voter turnout, however, we turned our attention to individual-level analyses that allowed us to account for demographic differences between Hispanics, whites and blacks in regard to party identification. Compared to whites, blacks were found to be less likely to be Republican and more likely to be Democratic across most elections years, a result to be expected given the long line of research supporting it.
The results we found suggest that once individual-level characteristics such as age and education are considered, differences between whites and Hispanics in terms of both party identification and the strength of partisan attachment disappear. That's to say, as with whites, there are partisan swings in the Hispanic community and only a modest attachment to parties, suggesting that Hispanics have not been fully incorporated into the party system.
We have presented the first multi-decade, time-series examination of political engagement and party attachment among ethnic populations in the U.S. Through the data, we found that dramatic growth in the Hispanic population since the 1970s did not correspond with an increase in either turnout or the strengthening of attachment to a major political party. On the contrary, aggregate trends revealed a general decline in Hispanic voter turnout and only a fragile commitment to Democrats or Republicans since the early 1980s.
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