By Adrian D. Pantoja
The balance of power among Latino voters is tilting toward younger voters. Every 30 seconds, a Latino turns 18 years old and becomes eligible to vote. Indeed, the growth of the Latino electorate is largely driven by young citizens turning 18 and less by declining immigration from Latin America. The Latino Community Foundation and Latino Decisions directs our attention to young Latino voters by oversampling this population in a recent survey of California voters.
The likelihood that young Latinos will vote is frequently doubted. This may be one of the reasons candidates and parties typically target voters that are older, more educated and affluent. Despite this perception and inattention by campaigns, the results of the survey show that 70 percent of respondents between the ages of 18 and 39 said they plan to vote in the March 2020 primary. These figures are consistent with other research by The Latino Community Foundation, which found that 68% of registered Latinos in California voted in 2016.
Other survey questions also show a high degree of political interest and engagement among young Latinos. Nearly 40 percent said their interest in politics has increased since Trump became president and 71 percent said they read and watch news about politics and current affairs “somewhat” to “very often.” Finally, 84 percent said they are planning to complete the U.S. Census form in 2020, despite efforts on the part of the Trump administration to discourage such participation.
Understanding the power and future direction of the Latino electorate requires us to focus on the values, beliefs and behaviors of young Hispanics. We focus on California because the state will pay a pivotal role in the Democratic primary and the state is home to the largest concentration of Latino voters, making them decisive players in that outcome. Our data suggests candidates should pay closer attention. The political power is shifting toward young Latino voters in California.
Adrian D. Pantoja is a Professor of Politics at Pitzer College and Senior Analyst for Latino Decisions.