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Pew Report Outlines Potential Impact Of Latinos On Presidential Politics


This presidential election, Latinos are expected to make up a record 12 percent of the electorate. To put that in perspective, that is nearly as large as the black vote in this country. The number is in a new report from the Pew Research Center out today, and here to talk about it with us is NPR's Asma Khalid. Welcome.


SHAPIRO: Asma, let's define this 12 percent. How large a group of voters are we talking about, and who are they?

KHALID: Well, Ari, it's huge. I mean, we're talking about more than 27 million eligible voters expected in 2016. I talked to Mark Hugo Lopez about this. He's one of the authors of this report. He focuses on Hispanic issues at the Pew Research Center. And he told me there are two really interesting things to know about this community.

MARK HUGO LOPEZ: Since about 2005, the main driver of population growth has actually not been the arrival of new immigrants. It's actually now births in the United States to Hispanic parents. The median age of U.S.-born Hispanics is 19, which means that half of the Hispanic U.S.-born population is actually currently either in school or in preschool.

KHALID: So, you know, a vast majority of the growth these days is from second-generation Latinos who are coming of age, who are turning 18. About half of the Latino voters currently are millennials, and that's huge. I mean, that's way larger than the percentage of millennials in any other community - black, white or Asian.

SHAPIRO: But we know the millenials don't vote in huge numbers compared to older voters. So what's the political impact going to be?

KHALID: I think that's hard to judge at this point. I mean, young Latinos have had among the lowest turnout of any group - way lower than both blacks and whites. Look, in 2012, under 38 percent of Latino millennials voted. And...

SHAPIRO: And how does that compare to black and white millennials?

KHALID: So both black and white millennial voters participated at rates that were at least 10 percent higher. So, you know, when you think of young people not voting, you have to take that traditionally low figure and subtract about 10 percent, and that's where you end up for Hispanic millennials. That being said, I mean, there are efforts to target this young population. I was in Orlando recently where some Latino voter groups are going into high school specifically with the idea that they could preregister 17-year-olds to vote.

SHAPIRO: Well, Orlando is in Florida - obviously, a really important state. But talk about the geography of Latino votes in the U.S. generally. There are big states like California, Texas, New York, with huge Latino populations, but those aren't swing states. So what's the potential impact here?

KHALID: I mean, that's right, Ari. Those states are not really in play that you mentioned in 2016. But Latinos make up a critical mass in a couple of key battleground states - Florida, Nevada and Colorado in particular. Florida is really interesting because it's historically had a large Republican-leaning Latino population with Cuban roots. But these days, there is a growing community of Democrats made up of folks from Puerto Rico and also some voters with Central American roots.

SHAPIRO: Asma, do you ultimately see this growth as having a real definitive impact in 2016?

KHALID: I mean, I think it's hard to say. In every other swing state - besides the ones that I mentioned - I mean, Latinos make up less than 5 percent of voters. So the potential there is limited. But maybe what's most interesting in all this research is that more and more Latinos are moving to states across the country. I'm in Iowa right now where the Latino population has doubled since 2000. And for the first time, there's a structured effort to organize the Latino community to caucus. And I think what's happening in Iowa could be happening across the country. And so even though the Latino vote might not be huge this year, this election cycle, the thing to know, Ari, is that the median age of U.S.-born Latinos is 19. And the population is growing quickly. And as Latinos move across the country, I think there's no doubt that their voting power will increase, and it'll be felt in elections to come.

SHAPIRO: NPR's Asma Khalid joining us from Iowa. Stay warm out there, Asma.

KHALID: (Laughter) Thank you, Ari. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Asma Khalid is a White House correspondent for NPR. She also co-hosts The NPR Politics Podcast.
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