Latinos, and specifically Latino millennials who make up nearly half of Latino voters, have the potential of significantly impacting this fall’s election. The question remains, though, if they will vote, and if they do, for whom they will vote.
Latino millennials who like all millennials are adults between the ages of 18 and 35, make up 44 percent of all Latinos eligible to vote in the upcoming elections. Since the 2012 elections, 3.2 million Latinos have joined this millennial group and are now able to impact the 2016 presidential vote. Yet, tradition has it that Latino voter turnout has remained consistently below 50 percent during the past three decades—compared to 67 percent for Blacks and 64 percent for Whites in the 2012 elections—and it may be unlikely that the Latino millennial population will change any of this.
Before determining whether or not Latino millennials will impact the 2016 elections, it’s important to understand who they are. Jose Villa, president of Sensis Agency, a cross-cultural advertising agency that has initiated The Hispanic Millennial Project, has been looking at exactly this in the past few years. He and his cohorts have tracked this market subgroup of Latinos through the project’s innovative research initiative since 2014.
“Politically they are kind of in the middle. They share a lot of similar attitudes and beliefs to their parents and older counterparts. They still have one foot in the immigrant experience and one from the native American experience,” Villa said. “In one sense they are very optimistic. They still believe in the American Dream and that hard work will achieve success compared to White millennials who have a less positive view. This is the group that won’t probably want to ‘go back to America being great again.’ They think it is great.”
According to Villa’s research, this group of millennials places a high importance on education and holds traditional values of building family and owning a home and car. This compares to what he sees as the stereotypical White millennial that is seen as more nihilistic, and is delaying starting families and buying homes.
Among Latino millennials, 44 percent are foreign born and make up a large part of this subgroup. Because of this, they tend to be more satisfied with this country and more religious. Villa says the foreign born tend to be more conservative and entrepreneurial. But, when it comes to politics, Latino millennials at large are “a group that is up for grabs.” They are the ones driving up the number of Latinos eligible to vote, and among them are Puerto Ricans who have moved to the mainland.
When it comes to topics of concern for them, they are no different in their responses than Latinos in general. The economy, immigration and education are, in this order, the three top issues of concern for them according to The Hispanic Millennial Project.
While this research shows that Latino millennials could vote for either party—Republican or Democratic—the question remains whether they will actually vote when the time comes. “Younger voters in general don’t vote as much as older voters, and Hispanics are less likely to turn out in large numbers,” said Villa based on data from earlier elections. “This group has two things going against it.”
Villa added, “They are unlikely to vote in large percentages unless they are brought out by key issues or a person. One of the candidates has the potential to bring them out to vote against him. His rhetoric on immigration and comments he’s made on Hispanics have the potential to motivate a larger percentage to come out and vote against him than otherwise would.”
Latino Voting Trends
Villa and Jens Manuel Krogstad, writer and editor for the Pew Research Center, both concurred that Latinos and Latino millennials are most likely to have the greatest impact in swing states such as Colorado, Utah, and Arizona. They agreed that California and Texas, states with the largest concentration of Latinos, typically cancel each other out in the elections.
Also, when it comes to the direction of the overall Latino vote, Latinos have traditionally voted for Democratic candidates. In the 2012 elections, more than 70 percent of Latinos voted for Barack Obama, Krogstad noted.
“But the Latino vote isn’t monolithic. Cuban Americans have traditionally backed Republicans, but even that is changing with newer Cuban immigrants,” he said. “With a more recent survey we did, there was more support overall for Hillary Clinton, but this wasn’t uniform across different groups. English-dominant Latinos were less unified in their support of Clinton, whereas 80 percent of Spanish-dominant Latinos support her.”
According to the Pew Research Center’s report, Hispanic Voters and the 2016 Election, “Hillary Clinton currently has a 66 percent/24 percent advantage over Donald Trump among Hispanic registered voters. Clinton’s lead among Latino voters extends across many demographic subgroups. Among millennials (18- to 35-year-olds)—who make up 44 percent of all Hispanic eligible voters—Clinton leads 71 percent/19 percent. Her advantage is roughly as large (65 percent/26 percent) among older Hispanics (those 36 and older).”
In addition, the report notes, “Clinton’s lead is somewhat larger among Hispanic women than it is among Hispanic men. Among Hispanic women, 71 percent say they support Clinton while 19 percent say they support Trump. By contrast, among Hispanic men, 61 percent support Clinton, and 30 percent support Trump.”
For the upcoming elections, the size of the Hispanic electorate is expected to number 27.3 million eligible voters, which is 12 percent of all eligible voters (almost half of these are millennials). “Their share of the overall electorate is increasing, and one of the milestones in 2016 is that for the first time Latinos make up just as much as the electorate Blacks,” Krogstad said. “Blacks, though, have a higher turnout rate.”
Will Latino Millennials Vote?
Given the large contingency of millennials among Latino voters (and the young median age of 19 for U.S. born Latinos compared to the median age of 30 to 40 years old for Whites), the likelihood that millennials will impact the Latino vote is high—that is, if they vote.
“Latino millennials really have a large footprint in the Latino electorate,” Krogstad concluded. “But when it comes to the elections this fall, the big question is, will they vote?”
The answer: only time will tell. •