The Hispanic Vote
By Kenneth Reeds, department of foreign languages
In the wake of the 2010 national census, the press (and Lingua Franca) focused for some time on the country’s growing Hispanic population. This count demonstrated that the number of Hispanics had grown to reach 16% of our total population and, perhaps more importantly, they accounted for half of the country’s population growth. This last statistic points to the fact that every year the Hispanic population grows at a faster rate than any other. Building upon these statistics, the Pew Research Center projects that, if current trends continue, by 2050 Hispanics will be 29% of our population.
Analysis of voting from the recent presidential election indicates that Hispanics are not just a growing portion of the country, but that they are also working to make sure their political voice is heard. The Washington Post provides us with some raw data:
National exit polls showed that 10 percent of the electorate was Hispanic, compared with 9 percent in 2008 and 8 percent in 2004. Those numbers take on more significance when combined with results: Across the nation, 71 percent of Latinos voted for Obama, compared with 27 percent who chose Mitt Romney.
Despite the large majority that voted for Obama, it would be a mistake to believe that this voting block is a homogeneous voice. Indeed there were as many reasons to vote for Obama as there were people who made up that 71%. That understood, the fact that such a large majority went in one direction suggests that some issues must have been capable of uniting the disparate group that we too often reduce to simply ‘Hispanic’. Immigration seems to have been the most important of those bonding issues. While the president’s record was widely considered less-than-stellar (he even went on Univision Spanish-language television to apologize for not pushing harder on reform), his challenger was perceived even more negatively (perhaps because he embraced the idea of “self deportation” in regard to Arizona’s controversial –and often called racially biased- immigration law).
In the coming months both political parties and the press will make a lot about these numbers. One thing, however, is abundantly clear and needs no further analysis to see: the Hispanic population is increasingly an important part of the United States and it is here to stay. With this in mind, the question quickly becomes: why haven’t you enrolled in Spanish classes for next semester?