Monday, October 19, 2020

Whither the Hispanic vote?

I love political posts, don't you?

The good news, for those who answered "NO!", is that I won't have a pressing excuse to do them much longer, as the US presidential election is just a titch over two weeks away. Plus I've already voted -- I put my completed ballot in the dropbox at the county clerk's office the same day I got it in the mail -- and as I mentioned last week, there aren't a whole lot of voters who are still undecided. So I'm becoming less interested in the horse-race aspects of this election and more interested in making sure everybody votes, and that everybody's vote counts.

Which leaves me a little room to think about what future elections in this country will look like.

tdoes1 | Deposit Photos

One of the things driving Republican voters, if the pundits can be believed, is a fear among rural whites that minorities will take over America. It's common knowledge that the minority population in this country is increasing while the white population is decreasing. Right now, the American population is 59.7% white, but the percentage has been dropping since the 1950s and it's projected to keep dropping until, by 2045, the population of whites will drop below 50%. To be sure, whites will still be the biggest demographic bloc in the United States, but we won't be a majority-white country anymore. (By the way, all the numbers I'm using are from the US Census Bureau.)

So who will be number two? With all the news coverage of Black Lives Matter this year, and depending on where you live, you could be forgiven for thinking Blacks will be the next largest demographic group. But you would be wrong. Hispanics* will be the second-biggest. In fact, they already are -- they make up 18.73% of the US population this year. In 2045, their percentage is projected to grow to 24.6%. That's right -- in 25 years, nearly a quarter of Americans are expected to be of Hispanic descent.

Blacks are and will continue to be the third largest group. And while their numbers will grow, their percentage of the population is projected to stay pretty stable -- 12.54% this year and 13.14% in 2045.

(What about Asians, you ask? I knew someone would. They're at 5.83% today and are projected to be at 7.85% in 2045. There's a nifty interactive chart here that projects population percentages for all these groups, and more, out to 2060.)

The thing that struck me about this is the emphasis placed by both of our political parties on the Black vote. If you've followed the "horse race" at all, you've seen the speculation from the punditry: Can Biden rely on the Black vote? Is Trump making inroads on the Black vote? 

Why all this emphasis on Black voters, when Hispanics are a larger percentage of the population? I kind of knew the answer, but an article I read in The Atlantic today underscored the particulars: Latinos don't all vote the same. Blacks, as a bloc, have voted reliably for Democrats for the past several decades. With Hispanics, though, it depends on where they're from. Cuban Americans in Florida have family members who fled Fidel Castro's regime; as a result, they have an antipathy toward anything that looks like socialism. They mostly vote Republican. On the other hand, Puerto Ricans who live in Florida tend to vote Democratic. And Mexican Americans, whose families settled in the Southwest (and elsewhere in the country), tend to vote Democratic -- which is one reason why states like Arizona and Texas are beginning to turn purple. But the author of the Atlantic article, Mike Madrid, says young Mexican American men without college educations appear to be emulating their white cohort by turning toward Trump. However, he says young Mexican American women appear to be supporting Biden.

Another interesting thing: Mexican Americans make up the majority of the Latino population in the US. But remember what I said last week, about how certain states -- like Florida -- are more important in presidential races because voters are split pretty evenly between the two parties. That gives Cuban Americans the biggest Latino influence on US presidential politics, even though Mexican Americans outnumber them. Politics is indeed a curious business.

As a recent transplant to the Southwest, I find myself invested in how it all plays out -- not just this year, but in political races to come. 

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*I'm using the terms Hispanic and Latino interchangeably in this post, although technically they are not. Hispanic refers to anyone of Spanish descent, including Spain and its former colonies; Latino covers those from Latin American countries, including in Central and South America and the Caribbean. And I decided against using the alleged generic term Latinx because a lot of Latinos don't like it. That's the hearth/myth style guide and I'm sticking to it.

By the way, if you ever have an hour or two to kill, looking up the nuances of the term Hispanic will lead you down quite the rabbit hole. (Are Filipinos Hispanic? Kind of! But also Asian and/or Pacific Islander...)

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These moments of demographic blogginess have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell. Mask up, social distance, and vote!

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