The Emerging Hispanic Catholic Vote Print
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
(Millions)
Actual Voters
(Millions)
1988
7.7
3.7
1992
8.3
4.3
1996
11.2
4.9
2000
13.2
5.9
2004
16.1
7.6
2008
19.5
9.7
2012
23.7
12.5
    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

 
State
% of Population
2000
% of Population
2010
Arizona
25.3%
29.6%
California
32.4%
37.6%
Colorado
17.1%
20.7%
Connecticut
9.4%
13.4%
Idaho
7.9%
11.2%
Illinois
12.3%
15.8%
Kansas
7.0%
10.5%
Nevada
19.7%
26.5%
New Jersey
13.3%
17.7%
New Mexico
42.1%
46.3%
New York
15.1%
17.6%
Oregon
8.0%
11.7%
Rhode Island
8.7%
12.4%
Texas
32.0%
37.6%
Utah
9.0%
13.0%
Washington
7.5%
11.2%
 

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

 
Obama
Romney
Hispanic
71%
27%
Hispanic 18-29
74%
23%
Hispanic 30-44
71%
28%
Hispanic 45-64
68%
31%
Hispanic 65+
65%
35%
Hispanic Men
65%
33%
Hispanic Women
76%
23%

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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