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Latino Millennials More Civically Engaged, but Less Likely to Vote Than Baby Boomers

First Posted: Jun 23, 2014 04:20 PM EDT
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Vote(Photo : David McNew / Staff)

The millennial generation is a powerful force, comprised of close to 90 million teens, twenty- and thirty-somethings. But these civically engaged and independent-leaning young people are heading to the ballot boxes at a lower rate than their elders. Latino millennials have the potential to become one of the most influential segments of the political system, yet Latino baby boomers continue to beat millennials to the ballot box.

Approximately every 30 seconds, a Latino turns 18, and 70 percent of them automatically have the right to vote because they were born in the U.S. By the 2016 presidential election, 28 million Latinos will be eligible to vote, an increase from the present 25 million. Come this November's midterm elections, only 8 million Latinos are expected to vote (about a third of those who are eligible). Most new voters are millennials, but they vote at half the rate of 60-year-old Latinos. This fact has motivated efforts by organizations such as Mi Familia Vota, Voto Latino and Rock the Vote to increase turnout amoung young Latinos. Churches and community organizations are encouraging young people to move beyond talking and tweeting about politics and get involved. Hispanic evangelicals, who have large numbers and actively urge young Hispanics to vote, could have a significant impact on the Latino vote.

Latino voters are likely to determine the outcome of 14 GOP-held House seats in districts with large Latino populations and narrow margins of victory in 2014. But that greatly depends on young Latinos' voter turnout. About 26 percent of 18- to 24-year-old Hispanics voted in 2012, compared with 48 percent of those ages 67 to 74, in spite of the fact that millennials overall outnumber the 76 million baby boomers, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Latino millennials are a part of one of the most racially diverse and economically damaged eras in modern times. Burdened with loan debt, poverty and unemployment, many are disenchanted with politics, and those who do decide to vote are increasingly less homogeneous. Many aren't equally passionate about immigration reform, particularly second or third generation Latinos, who are more focused on jobs and education. However, this doesn't mean that millennials don't care about immigration.  

"My parents' generation ... they were like, 'How do we sever the ties?'" said Fernando Guerra, a professor of Chicano studies and the director of the Center for the Study of Los Angeles at Loyola Marymount University. "Previous generations' goal was to not be immigrants. Millennials don't define it that way. They associate and relate to their immigrant past because it was politicized."

The demolition of the digital divide has promoted a generation of better informed, politically minded and more discerning individuals, who are resistant to being labeled. Latino millennials tend to be liberal on social issues but can be fiscally conservative. Social media has become crucial in tracking the trends of young voters. But millennials maintain anonymity on the web, and the exclusive use of Spanish-language media to attract Latino voters is antiquated.

Legal abortion and LGBT acceptance rate higher among younger Latinos than older Latinos, though both groups have an interest in immigration reform. Only 44 percent of Hispanics in the U.S. currently eligible to vote, but states and districts with large Hispanic populations should keep in mind that Latinos' choices at the polls can make or break future elections. Also, recognizing that age, origin and nativity are factors in voting trends can determine whether a politician will earn Latino votes

"We each have our core principles," said Murrieta, a 27-year-old who became a citizen in 2010. "Political parties should not be looking for the one perfect candidate who can talk to our issues. ... We're not monolithic in terms of partisanship. We're not one size fits all. Political parties are going to be very smart to realize this."

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