PHOENIX (By Swing State Project) July 24, 2009 — The Census estimates there were 9.745 million Hispanic voters in 2008, compared to 7.587 million in 2004 — an increase of 28.4%. Overall, an estimated 131.114 million Americans voted in 2008, compared to 125.736 million in 2004, an increase of just 4.3%. Another way of looking at it: there were 5.4 million additional votes cast in 2008 compared to 2004 and about 2.2 million of them were cast by Hispanics.
The data are more meaningful when you think in terms of regions. In 2008, dramatically more Hispanics voted in the Northeast, the South, the West Coast and the Mountain West. While Hispanic voters still are concentrated in the Southwest, they are a rapidly growing political force in every part of the country, except perhaps the Midwest.
The Census Bureau on Tuesday released a treasure trove of voting statistics, but perhaps most interesting were statistics comparing the Hispanic vote between 2004 and 2008. Here’s Governing magazine’s Josh Goodman on what happened:
The Census estimates that there were 9.745 million Hispanic voters in 2008, compared to 7.587 million in 2004 — an increase of 28.4%. Overall, an estimated 131.114 million Americans voted in 2008, compared to 125.736 million in 2004, an increase of just 4.3%. Another way of looking at it: there were 5.4 million additional votes cast in 2008 compared to 2004 and about 2.2 million of them were cast by Hispanics.
The gain was particularly dramatic in California, where there were 2.08 million Hispanic votes in 2004, and 2.96 million in 2008 (which is 21% of all votes in California). (This rapid gain dovetails with the sudden pro-Obama shift in many of California’s red districts.) Percentage-wise, this gain is nothing compared with the gain in Georgia, though; although Hispanic votes are only 3% of the vote there, they shot up from 26,000 to 128,000 votes from 2004 to 2008.
Overall, this has to be seen as good news for Democrats — when a group that makes up half of all new voters polls in your favor by a 2-to-1 margin (Obama polled at 67% in exit polls among Hispanics).
It’s also worth noting that the 5 million increase also included 2 million more black voters and 600,000 more Asian voters — meaning, if you do the math, hardly any gains at all came from white voters. In terms of age groups, young voters (18-24) were the only group to show a statistically significant increase in voting rates (but they still remained the group with the lowest turnout: 49%).
Conventional wisdom is the African-American and youth voter numbers seem largely driven by a spike in participation associated with the historic nature of the Obama candidacy, and may be poised to fall off a little in future elections. However, the increasing Hispanic numbers were also driven partly by increased participation: the voting rate (the percent of persons of that race who voted) among Hispanics went up 4%, the same percentage that it went up among African-Americans.
It remains to be seen whether Hispanics continue to increase their participation rate (their voting rate was still only 49%, compared with 66% for non-Hispanic whites and 65% for blacks). But even if their voting rate falls off, growth among the Hispanic population will still make them a larger and larger proportion of the pool of voters.