TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — From 2000 to 2022, the number of Latino-Americans eligible to vote has nearly doubled, according to data collected and analyzed by the Pew Research Center. In the past decades, the change in electorate has come along with increasingly polarized politics and a changing political map in the United States.
In 2000, former President George W. Bush won, vote counts and hanging chads notwithstanding. At the time, 7.4% of voters in the U.S. were Hispanic. Now, that portion has risen to 14.3%, according to Pew’s data.
Pew reported the Latino electorate was “the biggest driver of growth” in America’s voting population from 2000 to 2018, with the voter population increasing in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.
The top three states for Hispanic eligible voters were California, Texas, and Florida, with a collective 17.9 million of the 32.3 million in the U.S. living in those three states alone. While in third place for proportion of Hispanic eligible voters, Florida still had a reported 3.4 million as of 2020. Pew reported Florida accounts for as much as 21% of Hispanic voters in the U.S., with California and Texas tied at 32% each, roughly.
Pew’s analysis also found that “Hispanic eligible voters tend to be younger than eligible voters overall,” and that compared to the rest of American voters, they “differ,” particularly when it comes to education levels.
Nationally, Hispanic voters are also more likely to be born in the U.S., compared to previous election years. Pew reported that the 2020 electorate’s Latino voters were 75% U.S.-born, while just 21% were naturalized citizens, or migrants who applied to be and became full U.S. citizens.
“When it comes to education, nearly a third of Hispanic eligible voters (32%) have a two-year degree or just some college experience. By comparison, a similar share of all U.S. adult eligible voters (31%) have a two-year degree or just some college experience,” Pew reported. “Eligible voters overall are more likely than Hispanic eligible voters to have a bachelor’s degree or higher (33% vs. 20%).”
In the 2020 election, Trump took more of the Hispanic votes. Pew reported in a separate analysis that while both parties made gains across demographics in the overall electorate, Republicans narrowed the gender gap. Among the Hispanic voters, Pew reported that Republicans were able to increase their portion to 38% in 2020 from 25% in 2018‘s midterm election.
However, the study pointed out that Hispanic voters “are not a monolith,” and that voters voted differently across party lines dependent on education.
“In 2020, Biden won college-educated Hispanic voters 69% to 30%,” Pew reported in 2021. “At the same time, Biden’s advantage over Trump among Hispanic voters who did not have a college degree was far narrower (55% to 41%).”
Broken down by where they or their families are from, Hispanic voters also had differences in partisan politics based on national origin. Pew found that “58% of Cuban registered voters say they affiliate with or lean toward the Republican Party, while 38% identify with the Democratic Party or lean Democratic” in the 2020 election.
On the opposite end of the political spectrum, 65% of non-Cuban voters aligned with, or leaned, Democratic, compared to 32% who voted or leaned Republican.
Early predictions by NALEO, the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials, forecast that 11.6 million Latinos will cast ballots in 2022’s midterm election. In Florida, the organization said they were predicting 1.4 million, similar to the 2018 turnout level, and a nearly 60% increase from 2014. They said about 20% of Florida Latinos were expected to vote in November.
The NALEO data was reviewed by the Brookings Institute, a nonprofit public policy organization in Washington. According to the Brookings analysis, abortion was the top issue that could still help Democrats bring in Hispanic voter support, particularly among women voters in the Latin community. Still, as Pew noted, the demographic is not unified on every issue.
“Despite overwhelming support for policy issues on the Democratic agenda, due to improved views of the Republican Party,” Brookings reported. “Latinas are projected to demonstrate their highest level of Republican support in several election cycles.”
Brookings said the shift in Latino voter party choices has increased in recent years.
In 2018, Brookings said 71% of Latino voters supported Democrats in Congress, compared to 20% who supported Republican candidates. That amount shrank to 54% in 2022. Like NALEO, the Brookings analysis pointed out differences among Latino voters based on national origin.
“Latinos are. of course, a very diverse electorate, with important variation in their voting behavior. Cubans remain distinct from other Latinos, with Cuban support for Democrats at 35%,” Brookings reported, based on the NALEO data. It said this was why Florida was “an outlier in pre-election polling,” with Floridians of Latino backgrounds “more partial to Republicans.”
Closing the gap when it comes to support has also been a major policy focus for Republicans and Democrats. The Republican Party has opened multiple community outreach centers to court Hispanic voters in 2022 in multiple states. Five of those community centers have opened in Florida in 2022, including in Doral, Tampa, and Orlando.
On the Democratic side, gubernatorial candidate Charlie Crist opened a statewide Hispanic outreach office called “Casa Crist” in Tampa.