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Where Do Latinos Fit Into American Politics?

Annenberg News21 Reporters |
October 9, 2012 | 1:17 p.m. PDT


By Ed Pilkington and Amanda Michel, The Guardian

Latinos for Obama signing up volunteers in California in Sept. 2012. (Obama for America)
Latinos for Obama signing up volunteers in California in Sept. 2012. (Obama for America)
Across America an electoral giant is stirring. The country's growing Latino population—projected to be almost a third of the US population by 2050—is changing the demographic face of the nation, with potentially huge political consequences.

Since 1986 it has more than tripled from 7.5 million to 23.7 million this year.

Several of the key battleground states that are likely to determine the result of the presidential election on Nov. 6 have large Hispanic populations. In Florida, the quintessential swing state, there are 2.1 million eligible Latino voters, one in six of the electorate.

That's comfortably enough to sway the result in a state which Barack Obama won in 2008 by fewer than 250,000 votes over John McCain.

Colorado, another key battleground state this year, has one in eight eligible voters, or 13 percent, who are Latino. Nevada has 224,000 eligible Hispanic voters, about 100,000 more than the margin by which Obama won the state last time.

Despite the steadily rising strength of the American Latino community, it remains a relatively poorly understood and unrealised electoral force. What motivates Hispanic adults to back one candidate and not the other, or even vote at all?

How are they responding to the increasingly hostile noises coming from the American right about the need to remove undocumented immigrants from the country? In what ways are young Hispanics, who themselves form a growing segment within this growing demographic, making use of their burgeoning power?

To answer some of these questions, the Guardian teamed up with the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism at the University of Southern California. Seven journalism students, directed by USC professors Marc Cooper and Alan Mittelstaedt, collaborated with the Guardian in a project to explore the sleeping giant of the Latino electorate.

With funding help from News21, the journalism education project of the Carnegie Corporation of New York and the John S and James L. Knight Foundation, the students fanned out across America to towns and cities selected in tandem with the Guardian. The towns—in Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Pennsylvania, Texas and Washington state—all have one thing in common: an Hispanic population that is approaching or has already surpassed the majority 50 percent mark rendering these places "majority-minority" arbiters of the future of the US.

Will young Latinos seize the day, or allow apathy to continue to dissipate their power? The students' dispatches provide a fascinating snapshot of the American Latino population as we approach the November presidential election. 

Read the rest of the Guardian's piece here.

Dispatches From Latino Communities Across The Country

Arizona Immigrants: Young Latinos Ready To 'Really Release The Energy' by Dan Watson

California Latino Vote: Do Republicans Care? by Reut Rory Cohen

Colorado Latinos Come Of Age: 'Finally, We're Getting Our Voices Heard' by Raquel Estupinan

Florida Latino Voters: 'We Don't Think The Government Represents Us' by Christine Detz

Pennsylvania Latinos: 'We Came Here For A Better Life For Our Kids' by Jacob Chung

Latino Texas: 'San Antonio Is A Peek At The America Of Tomorrow' by Tom Dotan

Washington State's Latinos Find 'Politics Has Not Changed With The Population' by Regina Graham



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