Last Friday, the Pew Research Center released its latest findings about Florida’s Latino voters. The headline read, “Democratic edge in Hispanic voter registration grows in Florida,” and although that conclusion was not surprising (President Obama won Florida both in 2008 and 2012), I spent a bit more time examining Pew’s latest numbers and also discussing the data with Mark Hugo Lopez, Pew’s director of Hispanic research. Here are three takeaways about the Latino vote in Florida from the Pew information that I think are important to discuss:
Latinos with no party affiliation outpace Latinos who are registered Republicans. Most people who follow politics might not know this, but it is worth repeating: according to a 2012 Gallup poll, 51% of U.S. Latino voters identify themselves as political independents. However, Gallup noted, “once [Latino voters’] partisan leanings are taken into account, most Hispanics affiliate with the Democratic Party (52%) rather than the Republican Party (23%).”
Interestingly enough, a similar pattern has evolved in Florida when it comes to U.S. Latino voters. Here is what Pew said about the period between 2006 and 2014: “…the number of Hispanic registered voters increased by 56%, while the number of Hispanics identifying as Democrats or having no party affiliation each increased by about 80%.” It also added this graphic to emphasize the point:
Another way to look at it is via pure raw numbers: If there were 313,000 Florida Latinos who registered with no party affiliation in 2006, that number almost doubled (575,000) in eight years. That’s a net number increase of 262,000. Conversely, there were 414,000 Florida Latinos who registered as Republican in 2006. In 2014, that number is at 471,000: an increase of just 57,000. Why the sudden increase? How “independent” are these voters: are they Democrats in disguise or are they Republicans in hiding?
“Perhaps this information about the rise of voters who have registered with no party affiliation presents an opportunity for Democrats and Republicans to actively reach out to these voters, especially in a close presidential election in Florida,” Lopez said.
And you wonder why Florida is a swing state.
Another point Lopez made about this rise of non-affiliated voters might have to do with young voters in Florida who haven’t chosen a party yet. Nonetheless, Lopez reiterated that these latest numbers can signal to both Democrats and Republicans that there are plenty of Latino votes up for grabs in the Sunshine State.
Miami might be more “independent” than you think. Pew also focused on three big counties in the state: Orange, Broward and Miami-Dade. As Pew stated: “…In Miami-Dade County –home to 46% of the nation’s Cuban-American population– Republicans still outnumber Democrats among Hispanic registered voters. In 2014, there were 265,000 Republicans and 218,000 Democrats.” Furthermore (based on the graphs below, see Miami-Dade on the right), is that the number of Latino voters in Miami-Dade who claim “no party affiliation” is greater than those who registered as Democrats:
Puerto Ricans moving to Florida are tipping the scales. It’s no secret: Puerto Ricans are leaving the island in record numbers (see reasons here) and moving to the mainland. Not surprisingly, Florida has become a top destination. It is estimated that about 300,000 Puerto Ricans live in Central Florida, while the overall population of Puerto Ricans in Florida is now at about 900,000 boricuas and growing. In this latest report, Pew noted the following: “In 2013, Cubans made up a smaller share (31%) of Hispanic eligible voters –adult U.S. citizens– in Florida than they did in 1990 (46%). Meanwhile, over the same period, Puerto Ricans made up a larger share of the state’s Hispanic eligible voters, rising from 25% to 29%.”
Another tidbit from Pew about this takeaway: “The share of Hispanic eligible voters of other ancestry (such as Mexico and South America) has also increased, from 29% then to 40% today.”
“This other group is everyone from Mexicans to South Americans who have become U.S. citizens,” Lopez said. “It is a very diverse of other groups, but by far Cubans and Puerto Ricans are the largest groups of Hispanic voters in Florida, and they are the ones driving the most Hispanic voter registration and outcomes.”
Pundits who continue to focus the conservative side of Miami as being the only source of political influence in the state when it comes to national presidential politics, might need to start looking past that. In fact, Pew noted, “Cuban Americans and their politics are also changing. This group increasingly leans toward the Democratic Party as more are born in the U.S. In addition, due to an influx of Cuban immigrants since 1990, a sizable majority of Cuban Americans today say they have at least some common values with people living in Cuba.”
“Miami-Dade is a Hispanic-rich district, the largest in the state,” Lopez said. “But even in Miami-Dade, we are seeing political partisanship in registered voters changing. Democrats have made inroads in registrations and there has been very little growth for Republicans in the same period of time.”