The Catholic Thing
The Emerging Hispanic Catholic Vote Print E-mail
By George J. Marlin   
Wednesday, 12 December 2012

The 2012 presidential returns confirm that the nation’s fastest growing voting bloc is Hispanic Catholics. This year 12.5 million Hispanics voted (80 percent baptized Catholics), an increase of 29 percent over the 2008 turnout, which continues a trend going back a quarter century and more.

Hispanic Voters
Eligible Voters
Actual Voters
    Source:  Pew Research Center
And the number of Hispanic voters is expected to continue to grow at a rapid pace because their median age is 27 versus 42 years for white voters. The median age of native-born Hispanics is 18 years.

The Pew Research Center projects that, by 2030, 40 million Hispanics will be voting and “will account for 40 percent of the growth in the electorate.” The largest group will be Mexicans who right now are 36 percent of residents eligible for naturalization. Latin Americans and Caribbeans make up 24 percent of that growth pool, Asians 21 percent, and Europeans 12 percent.

This is not the first time there has been a huge influx of Catholic emigrants. In the pre-Civil War era, millions of Irish and German Catholics came to our shores, followed in the early twentieth century by millions of Eastern European and Italian Catholics.

These white Catholic immigrants settled and became important voting blocs in America’s northeastern cities and in the mid-Western industrial and farm states. Hispanic Catholics, however, are, for the most part, settling and affecting the political demographics in the West and Southwest – with exceptions in New York, Connecticut, and New Jersey, historically home to many Puerto Ricans.

States with Hispanic Populations over 10 Percent

% of Population
% of Population
New Jersey
New Mexico
New York
Rhode Island

In 2012, 71 percent of Hispanics voted for President Obama and his pro-abortion, pro-gay marriage, high-tax, activist agenda.

Hispanic 18-29
Hispanic 30-44
Hispanic 45-64
Hispanic 65+
Hispanic Men
Hispanic Women

Hispanics overwhelmingly embraced Obama for several reasons. Many are below the poverty line and rely on federal relief programs that the president expanded in his first term. Households headed by U.S.-born Hispanics receive welfare payments at twice the white household rate, 42 to 19 percent.

Hispanics are also heavily dependent on Medicaid. In exit polls, 62 percent of Hispanic voters expressed support for Obamacare.  (Mitt Romney’s Spanish radio and television commercials vowing to abolish Obamacare fell flat.)

In addition, Hispanic teen-pregnancy is the highest of any ethnic group; 53 percent of Hispanic births are to poor single mothers who often become dependent of government. Hispanics also have the highest high-school dropout rate.

As for life issues, as in most Catholic households, there is a generation gap: 65 percent of first-generation Hispanics are pro-life; 53 percent of their children are pro-abortion.

Ross Douthat has written that the Democrats have carried the Hispanic vote because Hispanics are not assimilating successfully, “or worse, are assimilating downward thanks to rising out-of-wedlock birthrates and high dropout rates. The Democratic edge among Hispanics depends heavily on the darker trends: the weaker that families and communities are the more necessary government support inevitably seems.”

This phenomenon helps to explain Romney’s losses in key swing states with large Hispanic populations. Romney lost Hispanics in Colorado by 52 points; in Nevada by 47 points; and in Florida by 21 points.

Even though Romney won Arizona with 54 percent of total votes, he lost the Hispanic vote there by 55 points. President Bush, in 2004, lost it by only 15 points. With the Arizona Hispanic vote at 30 percent and growing, if the present trend continues, Arizona will soon flip to being a blue state.

Romney set the wrong tone with Hispanics. His “Self-Deportation” plan to solve the illegal immigration problem was not only ridiculous, but offensive.

Romney and his tin-eared consultants did not believe the election was about values. Hence, they failed to articulate to Hispanics the consequences of Obama’s secular nanny state. They failed to make the case for what it really takes to achieve the American Dream: hard work, discipline, deferred gratification, personal responsibility, and limited government that gives a helping hand not permanent handouts.

If the Republican Party is not to go the way of the Whigs and wants to tap into native Hispanic social conservatism for help in promoting life issues and defending marriage, several things must happen. First, it’s important to figure out what makes successful Hispanics tick. My guess is that they are from tight-knit families, are Church-going, and possess an entrepreneurial spirit.  (Hispanics are starting new business ventures 2.5 times the rate of the general population.) 

Next, Republicans must turn for counsel to the new generation of leaders: Florida Senator Mario Rubio, Texas Senator-elect Ted Cruz, and New Mexico governor Susana Martinez. These first generation Hispanics know, as Rubio said in accepting the Jack Kemp Foundation Award last week, that “Big government has never been able to create and sustain a vibrant and stable middle-class. . . . Government’s role is to support those institutions and policies that strengthen the family and the community.”

Finally, the GOP must appreciate – not neglect or hinder – the one institution whose parishes for over two hundred years have opened their doors to millions of ethnics who arrived on America’s shores with only the clothes on their backs, helped them to overcome bigotry, and to become responsible citizens – the Roman Catholic Church.

George J. Marlin is an editor of The Quotable Fulton Sheen and the author of The American Catholic VoterHis most recent book is Narcissist Nation: Reflections of a Blue-State Conservative.
The Catholic Thing is a forum for intelligent Catholic commentary. Opinions expressed by writers are solely their own.

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Comments (21)Add Comment
written by Zorro, December 12, 2012
The Latino vote — at over 70% for Obama — did not cost Romney the election, given its small share of the total electorate (e.g. 10%). Rather, it left the Republicans with a smaller margin of error. Latinos, to the degree Oaxacans and Cubans may be mashed up, did not reject Romney simply because he opposed amnesties. Republican strategists are deluded when they talk of support for the Dream Act winning Latino voters (recall Reagan and the Simpson-Mazzoli Act). Often, with big government in control, a sort of patron/client relationship emerges in which the government becomes the patron and many poor Latinos are the clients who vote for it in exchange for state health care, food, housing, education, and legal help. If anyone thinks that tens of thousands of Latino Catholics are just waiting for a nice word to vote for Rick Santorum, they're misguided. If anyone thinks Latinos just want the Dream Act and then will immediately embrace closed borders and a merit-based, ethnically blind system in which education and skills determine who may legally immigrate, they're doubly misguided. Just take a look at the demographics of the recently passed Proposition 30 in California.
written by Manfred, December 12, 2012
Interesting column, Mr. Marlin. Zorro has some insights as well. Two of my sons married Latinas (one was born in Cuba, the other in Uraguay). While families are critical in both cases, religious practice is not. The Democratic Party has merely taken the place of the Church which, in Latin America, is the source of largesse. People don't "give" to the Church in Latin countries, they "receive" from it.
John Adams insisted that our government was peculiar to the people who populated the American colonies, i.e., largely British with some Dutch and Swedes. He did not believe that other peoples could be comfortable with this system as it requires a large amount of individual responsibility. Mr. Marlin's studies seem to be proving President Adams correct.
written by Jack,CT, December 12, 2012
Thanks for a great article,
The truth is we need the hispanic
vote to "WIn" the White House,so we better get creative!
written by Jim, December 12, 2012
I'd like to know more about the conventional assumption that legal, voting Hispanics care a great deal about illegal/undocumented Hispanic immigrants. If they do,
I assume it’s because (1) they perceive mistreatment, if only in words, toward fellow Hispanics, and/or (2) they perceive that restrictions on Hispanic residents (voter ID, eVerify) are broad enough to encompass them though they’re legal. Is there any polling/survey that sheds light on this?
written by Jim, December 12, 2012
and could you provide more slicing and dicing: I'd like to see married vs single women, various income groups, church-going vs in-name-only, Catholic vs Protestant, and various nationalities such as Cuban. Thanks.
written by Mack, December 12, 2012
About Cuban-Canadian-American Catholic-Baptist Ted Cruz -- who knows?
written by Grump, December 12, 2012
It's not enough that every time we call a toll-free number for customer service we have to endure a choice of English or Spanish to proceed; now we have to bend over backwards to cater to the "Hispanic vote," which by implication means that all Latinos act and think identically and share the same political ideologies. Perhaps they do. Identity politics has superseded individualism.

My grandparents came to this country from Italy nearly a century ago. Like millions of other immigrants to America, they came here legally. They had passports and other forms of identification. If they didn’t have their papers in order or they had lice or other unhealthful conditions, they were refused entry.
Not all, but most immigrants came through Ellis Island in New York Harbor, which had become the gateway for soon-to-be Americans, opening in 1892 and closing in 1954. Over 62 years, more than 12 million immigrants were processed at Ellis Island. Of that total, about 2 percent were denied admission to the U.S. and sent back to their countries of origin for reasons such as having a chronic contagious disease, criminal background, or insanity.
Those who got in came from many countries and every continent except Antarctica. They came in lawfully. They didn’t sneak under or over a fence or hide in boxcars and pickup trucks.
The Italians, Irish, Germans, French, Poles, Swedes, Spaniards and many others – the vast majority from Europe -- were proud of their heritage but prouder still of becoming Americans. Dual identities didn’t last long for many including most Italian-Americans, of which I am literally one. But I do not think of myself in a hyphenated way as some groups still do. I’m an American.
My mother, who was 16 when she came to America along with three sisters and a brother in the 1930’s, didn’t speak a word of English upon arrival. When she died in 2007 at the age of 87, the language of her youth had long given way to the English she was able to read and write fluently for most of her life. My father was of Italian ancestry, too, though born in America. He spoke some Italian, but the language of our household was English, the tongue my mother and her family quickly learned so they could go to school, and live, work and play in the New World. In those days, you couldn’t press 2 on the telephone to hear another language.
Yes, it’s true I will hear, that some of those immigrants became gangsters – a tiny number compared to those that went on to live lawfully, helped build America and to die in foreign wars for their country – and they were mostly white and assimilated more easily than other groups.
That was then. This is now: by many estimates 12 million to 15 million illegal aliens are living in America. According to some sources, the number could be as high as 20 million, or roughly 6% of the nation’s population of 300 million. Most snuck in by themselves or were smuggled in through the porous U.S.-Mexico border; others overstayed their Visas or found other ways to break the law to gain entry and stay here. By hook but mostly crook they’re here. California is by far the state with the largest percentage of illegals – an estimated 1 in 4 of the so-called “undocumented,” to use the more politically correct term.
Nobody knows the actual numbers. But what we do know is that they came to America illegally and more than 80% are from Mexico and other Latin American countries. Mexico, which is responsible for around 57% of the total, has done nothing to stop the unlawful exodus until, ironically, it issued a warning to its citizens not travel to Arizona, which was forced to toughen immigration laws because the federal government failed to do so. Notwithstanding its concern for its own people, Mexico has managed to export drug cartels, kidnapping rings and criminal gangs to the U.S., all of which have rightly caused fear and loathing by law biding U.S. citizens.
Ask whether illegals have the same Constitutional rights as U.S. citizens, who also have responsibilities and privileges such as voting, paying taxes, and serving on a jury or in the armed forces and otherwise obeying the laws of the country.
Do criminals have the same rights as the law-abiders? The answers are obviously no. Yet those who insist on the respect for the law are under attack by those who flout it or otherwise would dismiss it as secondary to the rubric of “civil rights” – the buzz phrase that evokes the worst imaginings of the liberal mind.
Despite the best efforts by Obama and the mass media to sell the illegal immigrant’s plight as comparable to the bad old days of Jim Crowism and Bull Connor oppression, the vast majority isn’t buying. In Arizona, 70% of the people backed their new immigration law and other polls show similar strong numbers of support.
So, what is the answer? Israel, a nation that has been struggling for more than 50 years to preserve its national identity, is building a fence to keep the non-Jews out. A border fence from Texas to California would cost $4 billion to build, a pittance compared to the half-trillion dollars we spent to bail out Wall Street and the car companies.
It’s well to remember that we are a nation largely of immigrants melded into a great nation. The paradox of America is that in its diversity it has always found unity. Until now, when the nation seems more divided then ever – be it over health care, immigration, financial reform or whether there is too much salt in the food.
Decades ago, those first immigrants glimpsed Lady Liberty, her left foot trampling broken shackles at her feet symbolizing America’s wish to be free from oppression and tyranny, her torch signaling enlightenment, her crown of seven spikes said to represent seven continents.
The welcome mat is still out, but you have to come in through the front door.

written by William Manley, December 12, 2012
I think it is a mistake to blend politics with religion. We all favor the separation of church and state and so let's practice what we preach. Instead of wasting time on how to convert Catholics to conservative Republicans, we need to find a way to convert casual Catholics to committed Catholics. Only 25% of "Catholics" attend Sunday Mass.
written by diaperman, December 12, 2012
Interesting piece.

You are way out of date on the Puerto Ricans in New York; they were a wave 40 years ago but are a minority now. Most newer arrivals are from Mexico, Central and South America. And nearly every city in America has become significantly more Latino.

But commentators on this issue should do more of what you hinted at...Latinos are not exactly a bloc. Caribbean hispanics are different culturally than Central Americans and Mexicans, who in turn are different than South Americans. It's amateurish for so many commentators to ignore these distinctions. Cruz and Rubio are both Cubans who historically have been the most GOP friendly group--though Obama carried Cubans this year. No reason to think either Cruz or Rubio would help with Mexican or Salvadorean Americans.

As to the substance of your argument, you are clearly in the "say it louder" camp, such that if only the GOP cuts more Spanish language ads on abortion and gay "marriage" we'd get more Latinos to vote for us. Ain't gonna happen. I don't know how many more defeats we have to suffer before you give up on this idea.

Immigrants have historically always supported the Democratic party. They only have a chance at becoming more Republican after assimilation takes place a few generations later and they (hopefully) climb up the income ladder. Long term the GOP should focus on assimilation rather than short term attempts to put a sombrero on the same old elephant.

If were trying to advance the pro-life cause, it would be far more practical to promote the careers of Hispanic Democrats who sympathize with us on abortion and gay marriage.

But it will take a long time to the GOP to crack the Hispanic code, if it ever does. Hispanics won't vote for the GOP whom they perceive is hostile to them and their economic interests. The problem is far deeper than immigration. The GOP has no economic agenda for downscale low wage Americans and it is clear that its leaders don't want one. The party's economic pitch is entirely to its donor base comprised high income voters, business owners, and the Chamber of Commerce types. And paradoxically these same business groups continue to resist efforts to curb the flow of immigrants while promoting open borders as a source of cheap labor.

For all these reasons, the GOP is in trouble. The basic problem is squaring the circle. A party can be a conservative party or a mass immigration party but not both.
written by athanasius, December 12, 2012
Interesting article. I agree with Manfred. Our system does require a certain amount of individual initiative. It is the price of freedom. True freedom also means true responsibility. This is what it means to be a "grown-up". Unfortunately, I fear that our country is moving towards a nation of perpetual adolescents. They want what they want when they want it, and they want it provided for them. This is why they want big government to make their meals and pay their bills while they are out playing. But this is cultural, not genetic.

Statist/Socialist types like this type of citizenry because it allows them to be the caretakers and consolidate power. The people only slowly realize that they have lost their real freedom. Once they have slipped into vice, it is harder (but not impossible) to climb back to virtue.

As Catholics, we should promote true freedom and responsibility, as well as a culture of life. Even if we remain in the political minority, we must stick to the truth. God's truth is beautiful, and we must express its beauty. At this point in history, the GOP seems to be the best vehicle for devout Catholics to promote their views in the political sphere. We need to be as cunning as wolves in doing so while maintaining our integrity.

We need to find those of our devout brethen who are hispanic to help us spread the message. It will take time. In the meantime, continue our prayers, formation, and always trust in God. Salvation is His job.
written by Dan Deeny, December 12, 2012
Interesting article. You are right to say that Romney did not emphasize traditional values enough. But if he had, he would not have attracted Hispanic votes. According to your statistics, Hispanics do not place a high value on families. And they are not pro-life.
What can we do?
..., Low-rated comment [Show]
written by Ernest Miller, December 12, 2012
The core issue with this administration's immigration policy is that America has unwittingly become a dumping ground for the Hispanic (so-called) nomadic poor, uneducated, and unskilled peoples. Mexico, Central + South America's leaders long ago discovered that they can export unproductive citizens to the US and so, the joke and responsibility is on us.

In contrast, the many, many educated and successful Hispanic individuals are not encouraged nor care to leave their native home nations. Consequently, the advice of Manfred, Grump, and Diaperman, in this post, should be seen as a warning; or better, formulated into policy. If the US does not stop incentivizing dependency and does not shape nor integrate these immigrants into successful citizens instead of a Democrat voting block, the divided house will fall...and soon.

Our country should ask, "Who is the problem here...the nations and policies of America or Mexico, Central + South American nations or the people themselves?"

Surely the answer is the failed policies of Mexico, Central + South American nations. Thus, America should form a United Nations of America to begin to build a union in the America's that brings parity to economics and freedoms. Recognizing America's creativity, such a union designed to avoid the European pitfalls, and succeed in 20 years or less.

So long as we continue to frame the issue as a one-sided immigration issue or expect the Catholic Church to influence political successes one way or the other, we all lose.
written by Sue, December 12, 2012
My question from your previous columnn still stands unanswered - why so race-conscious? Why divide the electorate into white, black, Latino, etc. other than to *foment* division?

Now the more important question to ask is how many illegal aliens voted in the election, and if many of them tipped the presidency to Obama, does that say that Republicans should emulate the practice? Maybe we could also do a study of how many Communists are attracted to Obama and suggest that the Republicans do a better job appealing to the Communists.

Oh but that presumes the zombie Republican party is even deserving of any further chances. As Catholics, we have an obligation to bury the dead.
written by Jimmy, December 12, 2012
This article does not mention one of the most important details. Latinos are younger. Due to abortion, the average white is 44. The average Latino is 27. Younger people are more likely to be on welfare, more likely to start businesses, more likely to have abortions, and much more likely to be on Medicaid (65 and under) then Medicare (65 and older). It is critical Latinos and the GOP both be evangelized, but it is useless trying to draw conclusions from stats that say that whatever young people are more likely to do, Latinos will do at a higher rate than white people.
written by mark sullivan, December 12, 2012
Most of them are descendents of illegal aliens. They pay little taxes and are draining public resources of this nation. Their voting influence will only accelerate the ultimate destruction of the US. The Church encourages them to immigrate here and provides them direction to public funds while giving a much smaller support from their own resources. The seventh commandment appears to be ignored here as Church leaders prefer their obtuse interpretation of Christ to aide the stranger.
written by Sue, December 13, 2012
Mark, you are spot on for most part, but would reword "The Church encourages them" to "The USCCB encourages them..."

Good article now over at Crisis mag on bishops' conferences - as distinct from bishop's individual leadership.
written by Lou J Apa, December 13, 2012
The SAD part of this emerging hispanic vote, especially as identified as Catholics, is that they overwhelming vote for the dems who promise reform to favor undocumented folks! Very SAD to se the Catholic hispanics vote pro-death, same sex marriage, and other EVILS contra Catholic teachings! WOW...
written by Lou J Apa, December 13, 2012
The SAD part of this emerging hispanic vote, especially as identified as Catholics, is that they overwhelming vote for the dems who promise reform to favor undocumented folks! Very SAD to se the Catholic hispanics vote pro-death, same sex marriage, and other EVILS contra Catholic teachings! WOW...
written by Micha Elyi, December 13, 2012
Correction: The Emerging Hispanic Secular Vote
written by Stephanie DeAyala-Larragoiti, December 16, 2012
Interesting stats that mostly are opinion because I see no reliable citations for the statistics mentioned in comments. Many secular Hispanics are pro-life but believe in allowing others to make their own decisions instead of being forced to raise the children that are produced by being raped. Criminals "walk" free because of no evidence due to poverty and giving birth, cumbersome, and drug out judicial proceedings over periods of many years. I believe in letting others make their own choices. For one, I do not care what politicians or others think of how I live or how I think. Just because a woman has a child and is unwed does NOT make her a whore or a lesbian-even if non-hispanic white males think of her as one and accuse her often. A woman should not be forced to marry to prove she has 'family values'. This is my white hispanic PR opinion.

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