They'll make up 44 percent of the voting bloc in 2016—and that may not be such a good thing.
Latino eligible voters in the U.S. are projected to reach a record 27.3 million this election season, a new analysis by Pew Research Center finds. Notably, nearly half of these voters (44 percent) are Millennials, or people born after 1981—a greater youth share than in any other racial or ethnic group.
The report also found that Latinos have become more dispersed across the country since 2008—meaning that Latino voters now have a notable presence in some states where they used to exist in very small numbers—which could affect tightly contested races in these areas.
According to Pew, the main drivers of this growth in the Latino electorate are, in order of importance, young Latinos becoming adults and thus eligible to vote; Latino immigrants acquiring citizenship and becoming eligible to vote; and outmigration from Puerto Rico, where growing financial woes have prompted millions to leave the territory in recent years.
All those numbers would seem to predict that the Latino electorate will be hugely influential in the 2016 election, as befits the single largest minority group in the U.S. Pew projects that Latinos will make up 11.9 percent of all voters, pulling almost even with blacks, who will make up 12.4 percent. But things aren’t quite that simple. The report reveals several factors that could pull down the numbers and temper the effects of the large voter population growth.
For one, Latinos historically have had some of the lowest voter-turnout rates of any racial or ethnic group in the country. This is especially true for Latino Millennials, who trail youths of almost every other ethnic group and who vote less than any other age-range of Latinos. When you look at it that way, their huge proportion of the Latino electorate could actually harm turnout rates for the entire population.
This trend is particularly damning for Latino influence at large, considering that the youth vote is the single most important factor for growth in the Latino electorate. And that trend isn’t likely to change, as Latinos are a very young population in the U.S.—their median age is just 19 years old.
Also, despite the dispersion of Latinos across the U.S., there still aren’t large numbers of Latinos in most of the states likely to be toss-ups in this year’s presidential race. And that could be very bad for turnout; as Pew notes: “Presidential candidates often focus their outreach efforts on toss-up states, raising the chances that voters in that state might be contacted and possibly turn out to vote.”
There are three major potential presidential toss-up states where Latinos do represent a sizable voting bloc: in Florida, Colorado, and Nevada they make up more than 14 percent of eligible voters and could conceivably sway the outcome one way or the other. In every other key battleground state, Latinos make up less than 5 percent of the electorate.