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December 01, 2006

Study Explores Shifting Latino Voting Patterns

Republicans enjoyed unprecedented Latino support in the 2004 elections, causing many to believe in a permanent shift in Latino voting patterns. Comparisons of the 2006 exit polls with those from 2004, however, suggest a significant swing among Latinos back in favor of the Democrats. What was the reason for this shift? Did Latinos merely ride a national wave in shifting partisan preference away from the Republicans, or was something else at work? A study released on November 27 by the Pew Research Center sheds some light on the answer, but also suggests that more research must be done before a definitive conclusion can be reached.

The Pew study compares the 2006 and 2004 exit polls and reveals that blacks, who traditionally support Democrats in large numbers in every election, showed only a modest increase in the percentage of those that voted Democratic. Comparisons of white voters, meanwhile, showed a 6% increase in Democratic voting. Latino voters, by contrast, demonstrated the largest shift, with a remarkable 11% increase from 2004 of those who voted Democratic in 2006.

According to the Pew study, one major reason for this shift may have been Latino interest in the immigration debate, to the benefit of Democrats. Anti-immigration hardliners such as Randy Graff and J.D. Hayworth, who ran for House seats in Arizona, a state with a sizeable Hispanic population, both lost in their re-election bids, having made a crackdown on illegal immigration a centerpiece of their campaigns. However, the Pew study cautions against overstating the benefit to Democrats provided by the shifted Latino vote. For example, other pro-enforcement incumbents like Senator John Kyl, also a Republican running for re-election in Arizona, won elections. Furthermore, a close look at the results shows that, in large part due to geography and redistricting, the increase in Latinos voting Democratic did not impact election results on the whole: none of the sixty Congressional districts with the largest concentrations of Hispanic voters produced a turnover of seats in the House; and in those House races that did produce a net Democratic gain, Latinos made up at least 10% of voters in only four of them.

In sum, as the Pew report suggests, more research must be done to uncover the full nature and impact of the Latino vote in the 2006 elections. The full report is available on the Pew website;

http://pewhispanic.org/factsheets/factsheet.php?FactsheetID=26

Posted by VisaLawyer at December 1, 2006 08:22 AM

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