Hispanic Catholics: the Fastest Growing Voting Bloc

Since the federal government repealed hemispheric quotas in 1978, extended family reunification laws, and granted illegal immigrant amnesties in 1986 and 1995, Hispanics in the United States, who are 70 percent Roman Catholic, have been our fastest-growing ethnic group.

In Arizona, California, Nevada, New Mexico, and Texas, they now comprise 20 to 40 percent of the population. Hispanics filled about one-third of the jobs created between 1982 and 2002 and are projected to be 25 percent of America’s workforce in thirty to forty years. It also seems likely that in thirty years the Hispanic population will hit 100 million or about 25 percent of the U.S. population.

Surveys show that most Hispanics oppose abortion and attend church more often than the general population. Political analyst Michael Barone maintains that “Latino immigrants and their descendants are arguably the most family-oriented group in a society where an increasing number of people do not live in two-spouse families.” A Gallop Poll in 2006 revealed 64 percent of Hispanics believe that couples should marry if they intend to live together. Fifty-eight percent said that unwed parents should be legally wed versus 45 percent of whites holding that view.

Perhaps even more surprising, a Republican National Committee survey discovered 60 percent of Hispanics held that government should promote “personal responsibility” instead of “bureaucratic paternalism.” Also, 80 percent viewed welfare as a temporary safety net, not a permanent way of life.

These data explain why the most significant Bush gains in the 2004 presidential election were in the Hispanic communities. Republicans continued to expand their record of attracting Hispanics. In 1996, 21 percent of Hispanics voted for Bob Dole; 34 percent voted for Bush in 2000; and in 2004, 41 percent of Hispanics cast their ballots to re-elect the President. Hispanics, who represented 10 percent of the 2004 electorate, cast 12 million of their votes for Bush – a 2.4-million increase over 2000 totals. Reviewing these returns, former Clinton political consultant Dick Morris concluded: “More Hispanics voted Republican for a variety of factors, including Bush’s efforts to cultivate them, his proposals to legalize guest workers, and his conservative position on social values, which was a special importance to religious Catholic Hispanics.” Leslie Sanchez, president of the Impacto Group, a Republican communications research firm, agreed with Morris: “There is no doubt Hispanics share many of the values of the Republican Party.”

Concerned about this trend, Mickey Ibarra, former Chairman of the Democratic National Committee’s Hispanic Caucus, publicly criticized his party. “If [Howard] Dean, as Chair of the Party, does not recognize this need and provide the required leadership to reverse the loss of market share among Hispanic voters, a Democratic loss in the 2008 election is inevitable, as is the permanent decline of the Democratic Party….The Hispanic vote is up for grabs. The alleged Democratic lock on this constituency is a myth. The King has no clothes.”

2004 Hispanic President Vote

In Key States


Hispanic Vote






Bush Increase from 2000
















New Mexico




















This year, however, the Hispanic vote is swinging Democratic because many are repelled by the nativist chants of a few prominent Republicans. This course can be reversed. That’s because the Democrats treat Hispanics – as they do other minority groups – merely as victims and assume that promises of government largesse will buy their votes. Also, John McCain has had good relations with Arizona’s large Hispanic population (18 percent) and he is in sync with their social views.

Yet, at the moment, it does not appear there’s been significant GOP outreach to the Hispanic community in the campaign. If this is the case, it could be fatal for the McCain-Palin ticket. If reliably Republican states such as Colorado, Nevada, and New Mexico (Hispanic population: 19 percent, 24 percent, 44 percent, respectively) wind up in the Obama column, McCain will lose.

Because McCain is uncomfortable articulating his pro-life, pro-family views, it’s time to send Sarah Palin to the heavily Hispanic communities. Her “down home” style and her unabashed pro-family views will score with these ethnics.

Although America’s financial mess is dominating the public debate, in a closely contested election cultural issues will matter. At the moment, the financial news seems to be slowly turning up. In the time that remains until the election, if Sarah Palin is used effectively, she stands a good chance of wooing a large chunk of the fence-sitting, blue-color voters not only in Hispanic communities, but in the older Catholic ethnic rust belt states that could put the Republican ticket over the top.


George J. Marlin, Chairman of the Board of Aid to the Church in Need USA, is the author of The American Catholic Voter and Sons of St. Patrick, written with Brad Miner. His most recent book is Mario Cuomo: The Myth and the Man.