The Latino vote will be a hot commodity in the 2016 presidential election. Eligible Latino voters are growing at lightning speed and are increasingly well-educated, offering candidates millions of new votes that could sway the final count.
In the 2012 cycle, there were 23.3 million eligible Latino voters. That number is projected to grow to 27.3 million this cycle, per Pew Research. From 2004 to 2016, Latinos’ share of the total voting population has grown from 9% to 12.6%, as New York Times journalist Thomas Edsall pointed out at Columbia University’s conference on the Latino vote last Friday.
According to NBCNews.com senior writer Suzanne Gamboa, who also spoke at the conference, “any increase in the Latino vote this election will be incremental. We are not only a young population, but we’re young in organizing.”
Potential Latino voters are significantly younger than other demographic groups. Pew puts the share of eligible Latino voters who are “millennials” at 44%. That is compared to 27% of whites and 35% of African Americans in that younger age group.
As Gamboa pointed out, organizing and engagement will be crucial to courting the Latino vote.
The xenophobic rhetoric from the Republican Party may motivate offended Latinos to vote, especially younger voters who were born in the United States and feel rejected by their nation of birth.
Former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, New Mexico Governor and presidential candidate Bill Richardson, also in attendance at the Columbia conference, believes the Republican Party is “doomed” with Latino voters.
RNC chair Reince Priebus and GOP heavyweight Karl Rove have come to this realization, supporting comprehensive immigration reform.
The party, however, has not. Sens. Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, both sons of immigrants, often spar over immigration and each has recently taken a much more conservative stance than in the past.
Contrary to the media focus, immigration is not the most important issue for most Latinos. Univision VP of local digital sales Ted Gurley told Marketing Politics Daily that Latino voters care deeply about issues surrounding crime, education and the economy (jobs), more so than immigration.
Gurley noted that 83% of Latinos consume content on their mobile phones. With such a large portion of young eligibles, there are myriad opportunities for novel targeting techniques.
55% of Latino voters considered themselves persuadable in the 2014 election cycle. Developments in cross-device targeting and engagement strategies will come in extremely handy for campaigns looking to court the Latino vote.
Many political strategists assume Latinos will vote primarily for Democrats, but that could change.
Barring a Trump nomination, many Latinos could vote conservative. Former deputy director of intergovernmental affairs at the U.S. Dept. of the Interior during George W. Bush's presidency, Daniel Garza, another panelist at the Columbia conference, believes that Latinos are mostly conservative in the economic and social spheres: “The difference is outreach.”