Nov. 23, 2014

This Week's SFR Picks

Newsletters

Choose your newsletter(s):
* indicates required

SFR Events

Special Issues

 

 
Home / Articles / News / Features /  The Hispanic Century

The Hispanic Century

Hispanic voters are poised to change American politics—and neither party has sealed the deal

May 4, 2011, 12:00 am
By SFR

US Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.)

We have presented the first multi-decade, time-series examination of political engagement and party attachment among ethnic populations in the US. Through the data, we found that dramatic growth in the Hispanic population since the 1970s did not correspond with an increase in either turnout or the strengthening of attachment to a major political party. On the contrary, aggregate trends revealed a general decline in Hispanic voter turnout and only a fragile commitment to Democrats or Republicans since the early 1980s.


But beneath those aggregate trends, the data tell another story—of a mass migration to America that is similar to an earlier migration, and of the huge political potential of a Hispanic electorate poised to become far more politically active than it has been. As with circumstances underlying previous electoral transformations, the current social, economic and political climate confronting vulnerable Americans has the potential to jolt complacent Hispanics into political action.


How the immigration issue is resolved and how undocumented immigrants are treated in what could be a long-term economic downturn are precisely the kind of crosscutting, highly salient issues from which—a long line of political science research shows—strong and long-lasting party ties are made.


When a country has more than 6.6 million families with a head of household and/or spouse who migrated without authorization, immigration policy is, as a matter of factual reality, as much about keeping families together as it is about border control. Many in the Republican Party repudiated the comprehensive immigration reform measures championed by President George W Bush during his term in office, and have instead adopted a strong stance against undocumented immigrants, most notable of which was Arizona’s SB 1070, a law that, among its many controversial facets, requires individuals to prove legal residence in the US on the request of local and state authorities.


Such policies make the Hispanic community wary of the GOP for now. And given the recent ascendance of hard-line, anti-immigration factions within the party, a shift to more immigrant-friendly positions is by no means clear. But the emergence of high-profile Hispanic Republicans in positions of real political prominence could well steer the GOP back toward Bush-style immigration reform and help make Hispanics comfortable with the Republican Party again. 


Whether Democrats can connect, strongly and long-term, with the Hispanic community through labor and economic policies—and thus become the majority party for decades—also remains far from certain. There is much anecdotal evidence on political competition and friction among blacks and Hispanics, particularly at state and local levels. Studies of black and Hispanic attitudes often raise doubts about the potential for what might otherwise seem like a natural black-Hispanic coalition, and there is little to suggest that black or Hispanic leaders are eager to share party resources or civic positions in the near future.


Issues surrounding competition for jobs are often associated with political pressure for increased immigration control and enforcement, particularly with regard to securing the southern border and detaining undocumented workers. Such issues are likely to put tremendous pressure on the existing Democratic coalition. 


What we know is that, by their sheer numbers and their potential for political acculturation, Hispanics are poised to transform our party system for decades, if not generations, to come. The significant questions remaining are when, and to the benefit of which party, the transformation occurs. 

Continue reading: Page 1 | Page 2 | Page 3 | Page 4 | Page 5 | Page 6 |

 

comments powered by Disqus
 
Close
Close
Close