In recent years, Hispanic voters have become very important in political elections, according to Scott McLean, associate professor of political science at Quinnipiac.
“Latino voters in close elections really matter,” said McLean, who has been regularly featured as a commentator for WELI radio and several Connecticut newspapers during elections. “No political party can afford to take them for granted.”
McLean gave an example of the recent 2001 New York City mayoral election, where Mark Green assumed that Hispanics would vote for him. Instead, they split their vote, and Mike Bloomberg won the election.
It is important to note that Hispanics can be of any race. According to the 2000 Census, for example, 79 percent of people that indicated they were Spanish also marked another box in addition to Hispanic. Only 21 percent said that they were strictly Hispanic.
“Hispanic is not a race,” said McLean. “You can be Hispanic and almost anything else.”
McLean said some people are categorized as Hispanic, when in fact they are not. Portuguese and Brazilian people, for example, are not Hispanic, but they are often categorized as such.
According to Virginia Hughes at the Office of Multicultural Advancement at Quinnipiac, 3.84 percent of undergraduates indicated that they were Hispanic.
When the Census or the Quinnipiac University Poll surveys people, individuals are asked not what race they are, but what race they consider themselves to be.
According to McLean, the problem with this is what he referred to as the “Tiger Woods Phenomenon,” where some people consider themselves so mixed, that they do not consider themselves anything specific.
The Census predicts that in about twenty years, Hispanics will outnumber African Americans in the United States. This has resulted in a major effort by political parties to get the Hispanic vote.
“The Democrats have done better so far,” said McLean. Ronald Reagan had 40 percent of the Hispanic vote in 1988, compared to Clinton’s 72 percent in 1996. According to McLean, studies have shown that Gore received the majority of the Hispanic vote in 2000, with between 60 percent and 70 percent.
According to the 2000 Presidential election exit polls, 7 percent of voters said they were Hispanic. Out of that group, 62 percent said they voted for Gore, and 35 percent said they voted for Bush. However, most Hispanics in Texas voted for Bush.
“The Latino community in New York will be much different from one in Texas,” said McLean.
Hispanic voters do have certain voting patterns, according to McLean, but not as much as other groups. “Hispanics largely vote as independents, and they’re generally not loyal to one specific party.”
However, McLean said that Cuban-Americans lean toward Republicans, Mexican-Americans lean toward Democrats, and Puerto Rican-Americans are very diverse when it comes to voting.