Our chapter on political participation notes voter registration requirements and demographic differences in turnout. Both are playing a part in 2012. The William C. Velasquez Institute (WCVI) compared census data from 1972 through 2010 and found a reversal of a long-term trend of Hispanic voter growth in midterm elections.
"The new voter registration trend is one of significant Presidential cycle growth, followed by non-presidential cycle contraction," said Patricia Gonzales, WCVI Vice President. "This is very different from the previous trend, in which Latino voter registration saw significant growth in both presidential and off-year cycles from 1979 to 2004 with only one exception (1989-90)," Gonzales continued.The Houston Chronicle follows up:
The implication is that even significant growth in Latino voter registration will only modestly improve Latino voter performance at the polls in 2012 compared to 2008. Based on our previous trend, Latino vote registration in November 2010 should have grown to 12 million but instead it shrank to 11 million.
Therefore, even if the Latino vote grows normally for a presidential cycle, it will grow to only about 12-13 million for the November elections, far below previous projections of 14-15 million Latino registered voters. And having fewer registered voters translates into fewer Latino votes cast. We predict 10.5 million Latino votes cast (about a million more than in 2008), far lower than the 11-12 million previously projected. From 2004 to 2008 Latino votes cast grew by about 2 million votes.
"We believe that the recession and mortgage foreclosure crisis explains this decline. Latinos are suffering disproportionately from mortgage foreclosures and unemployment causing them to move a lot more than before. When you move, you have to re-register and we suspect that didn't happen in 2009-10," concluded President [Antonio] Gonzalez.
Download the entire study here
Hispanic voters also are a very young population, and young people, whatever their ethnic group, are less involved in the electoral process. Mark Hugo Lopez, associate director of the Pew Hispanic Center, points out that more than a third of Hispanics (34.9 percent) are younger than the voting age of 18 and nearly a third of eligible Hispanic voters are under 30. Among young voters, Lopez notes, "Latinos had some of the lowest voter participation rates - in 2010, just 17.6 percent of young Latino eligible voters voted."
Former state demographer Steve Murdock, director of the Hobby Center for the Study of Texasat Rice University, said other factors also may be in play.
"Across the country, there's fairly good evidence of a decline in the Hispanic birth rate," he said. "Plus, there's been a decline somewhat in migration rates. Whether those factors have to do with the economy or whether they have more of a long-term impact, we just don't know yet."
Another possibility, Murdock said, is dissatisfaction with the Obama administration.
"Some Hispanics don't necessarily feel terribly well supported by the Obama people," he said. "Not that they want to vote Republican, but they've noticed the lack of any progress on immigration reform, and they're aware that the Obama administration has deported more people than the Bush administration."