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Op-Ed: Four Reasons Why Anti-Trump Latino Voters Won't Swing The Midterms

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Steffen W. Schmidt, Iowa State University

The Democratic Party shouldn’t count on Latinos swinging many midterm races their way this year.
Approximately 27.3 million U.S. Latinos are eligible to vote in November’s midterm elections—12 percent of all eligible voters, according to the Pew Research Center.
Democrats hope that this big bloc of voters will punish Republicans for President Donald Trump’s anti-immigrant policies. They are courting Latinos in red states like Arizona and Florida.
But the so-called “Latino vote” has always been more promise than reality for Democrats. My political science research indicates that a Latino blue wave is not likely to tip the upcoming election in Democrats’ favor.

1. Eligibility and Turnout

To start with, immigration status limits the political impact of this group.
According to U.S. Census Bureau figures, only 44 percent of U.S. Latinos are eligible to vote, a lower proportion than Asian, African-American and white voters.
Latino voter turnout has also been historically low. In the 2016 U.S. election, Pew finds, only 48 percent of eligible Latino voters cast a ballot, compared to 65.3 percent of whites and 59.6 percent of blacks.
Gerrymandering of congressional districts and onerous voter registration barriers also significantly diminish Latinos’ voting power.
Some U.S. Latinos are highly likely to vote, including older voters with a college degree and Cuban-Americans.
But just one in three voting-aged Latinos under 29 voted in the last presidential election. Turnout was even lower among Latinos with less than a high school diploma.
Fully 20 percent of U.S. Latino voters fall into this low-turnout category.

2. The Location of Swing Districts

The impact of the Latino vote on Senate and House races in 2018 is likewise limited by geographic factors.
More than half (52 percent) of all Latinos eligible to vote live in California, Texas and New York. Congressional candidates in these states already understand the power of Latino voters, who have been decisive players in at least two dozen districts since the 1980s. Candidates successfully target Latino constituents in their media campaigns and outreach work.
In four big swing states, on the other hand – Georgia, Iowa, North Carolina and Ohio – Latinos make up 5 percent or less of eligible voters.
As a result, Latino voters may be decisive for Democrats in just a handful of races: those occurring in states with competitive districts and significant Latino populations, including Virginia, Florida, Texas, Arizona and California.
In my view, the Latino vote could help push Democrats to victory in just seven races in five states. These include Virginia’s 10th district, in the suburbs of Washington, D.C.; Texas’ southwestern 23rd and suburban 7th districts; Florida’s 26th district, which includes Miami; and Arizona’s Tucson-based 2nd district.

3. Latinos Aren’t Single-Issue Voters

The assumption that Latinos outraged by Trump’s immigration policies will come out en masse to vote against his party reveals another errant assumption about this voter segment—namely, that all Latinos care about……..
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