Latino voters play vital part in 2008 election

Cynthia Gomez

Whoever said Latinos who live in this country were never going to make a positive difference or change our society were wrong. Latinos became a significant factor in the change of a new president on Election Day.

The 2008 presidential election results surprised everyone as more voters aimed towards voting for the Democratic party. The surprising impact of all was the high turn out of minority voters, especially Latinos.

Latinos are said to be the fastest growing minority group in the country which, according the U.S. Census Bureau, represent 15 percent, approximately 46 million. If Latinos are said to be the fastest growing minority group in the U.S. then conceivably they were bound to make a difference and they did just that.

The U.S. Census Bureau reported 7.6 million Latinos voters in the 2004 presidential election. Latino voters displayed higher numbers in the 2008 presidential election as more registered Latino voters cast their ballots at polls on Nov. 4.

The National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO) Educational Fund estimates between 9.6 and 11 million Latino voters cast ballots in the 2008 presidential election, making it the largest turnout of Latino voters in history. This just means more and more Latinos are being encouraged to vote and that more are becoming citizens of this country.

In addition, the Pew Hispanic Center found that 9 percent of the electorate was Latino, one percentage higher (8 percent) than the electorate in the 2004 national exit poll.

nlike the high number of votes for the Republican party in the 2004 presidential election (40 percent of the Latino vote), Latino voters in the 2008 presidential election moved away from voting for the Republican party causing a large number of Latino voters to aim their vote for the Democratic party.

Exit polls from Edison Media Research as published by CNN indicate 67 percent of Latino voters voted for the Democratic party, and over 32 percent of Latino voters who voted for the Republican party.

Why did Latino voters favor the Democratic party rather than the Republican party?

In a survey conducted by the Pew Hispanic Center in July found that 70 percent of Latino registered voters said the U.S. was going in the wrong direction and viewed the Democratic party as being better focused to the concerns of the Latino community while just 6 percent said the Republican Party is more concerned about Latinos.

The Pew Hispanic Center indicates Latino registered voters ranked education, health care, jobs, and the cost of living as the most important issues in the presidential election, with crime a bit behind those four. The war in Iraq and immigration was farther behind the most important issues Latinos were concerned about. On each of these seven issues, Obama was strongly favored over McCain by ratios ranging from about three-to-one on education, health care, jobs, and the cost of living and immigration, to about two-to-one on Iraq and crime.

Obama carried the Latino vote in battleground states with large Latino populations. The Pew Hispanic Center indicates Obama’s breakthrough came in Florida, where he won 57 percent of the Latino vote in a state where Latinos have historically supported Republican presidential candidates (President Bush carried 56 percent of the Latino vote in Florida in 2004).

The NALEO indicates Florida, which voted overwhelmingly in support of President Bush in 2004 and is home to the largest number of registered Latino Republicans, was carried by Obama by a margin of 191,560 votes. About 634,500 Latinos cast their ballot for Obama. His margins were much larger in other states with big Latino populations: 78 percent of the Latino vote in New Jersey, 76 percent in Nevada, 74 percent in California, and 73 percent in Colorado, the center indicates.

Latinos broke a record number in voting in this election. Will Latinos break another record number in the 2012 presidential election as the Latino population continues to increase in the U.S.? Whatever the case may be, Latinos have had a significant impact in reshaping the political map in battleground states.

Now the question is how will President-elect Barack Obama help the Latino community?