Introduction: This special report in partnership with CNN en Espanol examines characteristics of Florida -- where the Latino electorate could very well determine victory in the 2016 presidential election.
Methods: Data were obtained from the U.S. Census Bureau, Voting and Registration, as a part of the Current Population Survey data from the November Voter Supplements. The 2016 estimates were derived by using the yearly percentage rate of increase between 2004 and 2012. Additional data were derived from an analysis of the Integrated Public Use Microdata Series (IPUMS) American Community Survey (ACS).
Results: The Latino population of Florida soared between 1990 and 2014 according to the most recent census data for 2014 and currently comprises 25% of the state’s population and 19% of its electorate. Latinos in Florida had higher registration and voting rates than national averages among Latinos. In 2012 72% of Florida’s Latino electorate, potential voters who were citizens 18 years of age and older, were registered to vote compared with a national average of about 59%. CLACLS projects that about 75% of Florida’s Latino electorate will be registered to vote in the 2016 presidential election based on past rates of increase. CLACLS projects that about 64% of all eligible Latino voters will cast ballots in November 2016. The national average among Latinos has been about 48% in every presidential election since 1992. CLACLS projects that Latinos in Florida will account for 20% of all votes cast in Florida in November 2016 making them a decisive force in the outcome of the election in the state.
Discussion: Pundits and political operatives would be wise to take notice of these trends. Florida is widely recognized as a key presidential swing state, but little attention has been given to the dramatic demographic transformation it has witnessed between 1990 and 2014. An examination of voter registration rolls reveals a clear shift away from the Republican Party since 2006, and this trend seems to be growing. For years, Florida’s Latino electorate was traditionally defined by the “Cuban vote.” But this is no longer the case. With the arrival of Puerto Ricans, Central Americans, and South Americans of various nationalities, the Cuban population has declined as a percentage of Florida’s total population, electorate, and voters. For the 2016 presidential election, over 70% of the state’s Latino electorate will be non-Cuban. In a close national election, Florida’s Latino voters could well determine who wins the White House in 2016.