Census data show Hispanic boom. How it could impact US politics.
The US Hispanic population grew 43 percent during the past decade to 50.5 million – more than half the country's population growth. The demographic trend could impact elections.
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The figures for younger Americans portend an accelerating trend. Hispanics now make up 23 percent of the population younger than 18.Skip to next paragraph
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The number of states where more than half the children are minorities (many if not most of them Hispanics) has grown to 10: Mississippi, Georgia, Maryland, Florida, Arizona, Nevada, Texas, California, New Mexico, and Hawaii.
A potential political impact
The steady and continuing rise in the Hispanic population could have political impact, perhaps as soon as next year’s presidential election.
Some US Senate races may be at stake as well – particularly those with growing Hispanic populations where the GOP hopes to unseat incumbent Democrats: Jon Tester in Montana, Ben Nelson in Nebraska, and Claire McCaskill in Missouri.
In last November’s congressional races, 60 percent of Latino voters supported Democratic candidates in House races while 38 percent supported Republican candidates, according to the Pew Hispanic Center. In 2008, Latinos voted for Barack Obama by more than 2 to 1 (67 to 31 percent) over John McCain.
"If this becomes an election all about the economy, there's a major opening for a Republican candidate to appeal to Latino voters," Republican pollster Bob Moore told The Hill, a political newspaper and website. "But if it becomes about immigration, then it could be problematic for the Republican nominee."
Even with the economy a major concern, immigration remains an important issue for Hispanics, however.
Seventy-seven percent say most illegal immigrants should be given “a path to citizenship” compared to just 11 percent who believe such immigrants should be “forced to leave the country,” according to a poll conducted last year for the immigrants’ rights group America’s Voice.
Immigration and the Hispanic vote could be key for some threatened Democrats trying to hold onto their seats – as it was for Senate majority leader Harry Reid of Nevada in his hard-fought race last year against tea party favorite Sharron Angle.
One big unknown in the rise in the Hispanic population is the number who are in the United States illegally, which the Census Bureau does not track. How many Hispanics in fact will be able to vote?
By 2050, the Census Bureau has projected, ethnic and racial minorities in the United States will become the majority, and nearly one-third of all US residents will be Latino – nearly twice the percentage today.