Latinos are the fastest growing minority group in the nation. This is also
true in Florida, where Latinos account for 57 percent of Miami’s population. In
Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach, Latinos account for 17 percent and 12
percent, respectively, of the population. These numbers speak volumes as it
clearly portrays the Latino voting power in Florida.
Many argue that Latinos have become a major voting block in Florida elections.
However, representing Latinos as a single voting block is quite challenging as
ethnic groups within the Latino community support different political parties.
As stated by Lillian Casillas, director of Indiana University's Latino Cultural
Center, La Casa, "I don't think people realize there isn't just one voice in the
Latino community -- this is a constant frustration for others. It's getting
harder to categorize Latinos as one voting bloc because the group as a whole
can't seem to differentiate on the issues."
A vast majority of the Cuban community is supportive of the Republican Party.
This is true of Nicaraguans and several other Latino communities as well.
Democrats have traditionally banked on Puerto Ricans and Mexicans for their
support. However, recent polling data has suggested that the Latino community
has not followed conventional voting patterns. Latinos will vote based on issues
affecting their household. This means that Latinos will be supportive of agendas
that pave the way for Latino households to purchase a home and education policy
that strengthens our public school system. After all, Latinos immigrated to the
United States following “El Sueño Americano” or “The American Dream.”
The Latino Voters
A recent study by the Pew Hispanic Center/J. Kaiser Family Foundation revealed
interesting facts about the Latino voting pattern. The survey found that
unregistered Latinos who are citizens are less attached to either party. Of the
unregistered Latino community, 32 percent said they were independents and 28
percent said they do not know their party. This amounts to 60 percent of
unregistered Latino citizens that can be swayed by either party, once they are
registered of course. The study further reveals greater ambiguity among the
Latino community, as the party affiliation of Latinos planning to become
citizens is uncertain. Of those surveyed, 35 percent reported they were planning
to register Independent, 28 percent reported saying they did not know their
party affiliation, 22 percent reported they were planning to register Democrat
and 14 percent reported they were planning to register Republican.
These statistics further highlight the uncertainty among the Latino community
when it comes to voting behavior. Though more Latinos reported they were
planning to register Democrat, a greater percentage reported no political
affiliation with either Democrats or Republicans. This means that Latinos will
support candidates based on their positions on public policy issues and not vote
straight down party lines.
The Issues: Education, the Economy and Homeownership
Recent surveys conducted by Time Magazine and the Pew Hispanic Center report the
public policy issues most important to the Latino community. Number one on the
list is education. This should be no surprise, as Latinos have come to the US in
hopes of improving the lives of their children. For us, education will always
remain our number one priority.
Second on the list are jobs and the economy. Once again, having a steady job
market and a healthy economy will allow Latinos to achieve “El Sueño Americano”
that is so highly revered among the Latino community. Finally, the opportunity
to realize the dream of homeownership and the ability to purchase a home is
extremely important for the Latino community. Parents look forward to the
opportunity of passing the torch to their children by transferring their wealth
(which most often is the house) to them.
The Realities of Latinos and Politics
What does this mean for Democrats? We must work together as one: Democrats and
Latinos united to strengthen homeownership among the Latino community, improve
the educational learning gains among Latino students, increase access to student
financial aid for college-bound Latino students, and strengthen the job market
for the Latino community.
The Latino community strives itself on promoting the importance of religion,
family, and the freedom enjoyed by all Americans. For this reason, it is
important that Democrats reach out to Latinos and show that together we can
defend and promote the principles we have in common, those being the three F’s;
Faith, Family, and FREEDOM!
Democrats must reach out to the Latino community by hosting a series of
community forums that encourage active civic participation. Latinos treasure la
familia (the family). In order to strengthen the partnership between Latinos and
Democrats, we must provide a sense of family and belonging among Latinos. The
Latino community must feel that we are apart of the Democratic familia. The
question, however, is when this will happen. The Latino community and Democrats
have much in common and share the same guiding principles. It is through this
common ground that we must come together as one, Latinos and Democrats, to build
a better Florida.
Christian Ulvert is the Communications Specialist for the
House Democratic Office. He was born and raised in Miami, Fl and moved to
Tallahassee five years ago to study at Florida State University. He earned his
Bachelors of Science in Political Science in 2004 and is currently finishing his
Masters in Public Administration and Policy. Christian, as a Nicaraguan
American, has been very active in the political community by promoting the need
to build a stronger partnership among Latinos and Democrats