Panel debates role of Latino vote in 2014
Emma Borne | Thursday, February 6, 2014
In light of recent focus on the Latino vote as the 2014 midterm elections approach, Notre Dame hosted a panel discussion Wednesday evening in McKenna Hall entitled, “American Politics in the 21st Century: The Latino Vote and the 2014 Elections.”
Christina Wolbrecht, associate professor of political science at Notre Dame, moderated the three-person panel. Panelists included professor of American politics Ricardo Ramirez, professor Michael Jones-Correa of government from Cornell University and professor of political science Sophia Wallace from Rutgers University.
Ramirez spoke first, asking why the Latino vote is suddenly receiving so much attention.
In response to his own questions, he said, “We have to look at the dramatic increase. In the period between 1991 and 2011 more than a third of the new 13 million U.S. citizens were Latinos, you had a dramatic increase in the number of 18-24 year old Latinos between 1991-2006.
“There’s almost as many Latino voters… to potential Latino voters.”
Jones-Correa said the Latino vote matters because these new voters have the possibility of swaying an outcome of an election.
“When you have new residents moving into the states will they maintain their own political orientation or create a shift?” he said.
There are three ideas around this question, Jones-Correa said. One, because Latinos tend to vote liberally, they will sway the states they move to. Two, Latinos will move to states that match their ideology, and three, Latinos will be influenced by the people around them and may even be swayed themselves to vote conservatively, he said.
Jones-Correa said many first generation Latinos likely to claim no party affiliation and be more influenced by their neighbors because they want to integrate into American society or because they do not understand the mission of each party.
Wallace continued this thought and asked what the most important issues are for the Latino voter.
“[Immigration] has become increasingly an extremely important issue in the Latino community, but it’s also affecting turn out and affecting vote choice and that is both mobilizing Latino voters for democratic candidates as well as mobilizing them against Republicans in specific places,” Wallace said.
Wallace said the Latino vote is more important than many American citizens make it out to be. The U.S. should care about the Latino vote, Wallace said, because it has the potential to increase the number of Latino elected officials, mobilize politicians to respond to Latino issues, and moderate campaign ads for immigration.
Wallace also said we observe a two-to-one ratio in favor of Democrats.
“Both parties are trying to craft specific campaign strategies to mobilize Latinos, but a lot of this hinges on the handling of immigration as an issue.”
Wallace said the GOP runs the risk of alienating Latino voters with very conservative viewpoints.