A Preliminary Analysis of the Hispanic Vote, 2008

NOTE: An updated version of this report can be found here.

This report is a quick, preliminary analysis of what happened with the Hispanic vote in last night’s historic election. For further background, please check out NDN’s major study of Hispanic voting trends, Hispanics Rising II.

Key Findings:

Hispanics Participation Rates Continue to Increase – Despite an historically high turnout, the Hispanic share of the national vote increased from 8% in 2004 to 9% in 2008. In three of the battleground states with significant Latino populations, the share of the electorate that was Hispanic more than doubled in Colorado, increased 60% in Nevada, and increased almost 30 % in New Mexico (see table below).

Hispanics Have Decisively Swung to the Democrats – According to the exit polls, Barack Obama improved Democrats' performance with Hispanics nationwide by 16 net percentage points. In 2004, Senator John Kerry outperformed President George W. Bush with Latinos by 59% to 40%. In 2008, it was 67% Obama, 32% McCain. In the battleground Latino states, there was similar movement, with the vote shift in Florida from 44%-55% Kerry/Bush to 57% to 42% Obama/McCain. In each of these four states, the margin provided by the Latino vote played a significant role in President-elect Obama’s victory.

Hispanics Provided The Margin of Victory in These Four States - In Colorado, Obama’s Hispanic support accounted for 12.4% of the electorate, while Obama only won by 7%. In Florida, Obama’s Hispanic support accounted for 7.9% of the electorate, while Obama only won by 2%. In Nevada, Obama’s Hispanic support accounted for 12.4% of the electorate, while Obama only won by 12%. In New Mexico, Obama’s Hispanic support accounted for 28.3% of the electorate, while Obama only won by 15%.

If These Trends Continue, the National Map Will Continue to Get Harder for Republicans – Of the eight states which flipped from Bush 2004 to Obama 2008, four were heavily Latino states. Just as Pete Wilson’s taking on Hispanics in the 1990s contributed to the transformation of California, home of Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan, from a swing to the bluest of blue states, the demonization of Hispanics by the national GOP is turning very critical battleground states much more blue.

What should be most ominous to the GOP is what happened in these 4 states heavily contested by the Democrats. In this election, the center-left coalition went after the Hispanic vote as never before. It dramatically increased turnout in the southwestern states, and saw an historic shift of the enormous Florida Hispanic vote from Republican to Democrat. Similar investments in future years in states like Arizona and Texas could very well make these states – home to George W. Bush and John McCain – as blue as New Mexico and Colorado are today.