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Study Projects Lower Voter Turnout Rate Among Latinos in 2016 Election

First Posted: Mar 03, 2016 11:37 AM EST
Florida's Latino population is on the rise.

Photo : David McNew/Getty Images

Although more Latinos will be eligible to vote in the 2016 presidential election, a new study predicts there still may be a low voter turnout rate among Latinos this year due to apathy.

Growth of Latino Voting Bloc

Since the 2012 election season, 3.2 million Latinos have turned 18 and became eligible to vote, bringing the population of eligible Latino voters to 27.3 million. However, the NALEO Educational Fund projects that only 13.1 million Latino voters will actually cast ballots in the 2016 election. Although that's a 17 percent jump in turnout compared to the 11.2 million Latinos who voted four years ago, it is still a significant gap between eligible and projected voters.

According to analysis conducted by the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO), less than half of eligible Latino voters across the nation will vote in the election cycle.

Apathy Among Millennial Latinos

Experts believe that gap in civic engagement is being driven by the younger generation of Latino voters, who tend to be apathetic like their non-Latino peers.

"We have a problem with young people voting generally in this country," said Eduardo Gamarra, a professor of Latin American politics at Florida International University, to WLRN. Latino millennials are "behaving increasingly like [non-Latino] American kids."

"This really demonstrates one of the most significant challenges [for Latinos in the United States]," he added.

About 44 percent of eligible Latino voters are millennials, according to a recent study by the Pew Research Center. But there was also a low voter turnout among 18 to 35-year-old Latinos in 2012, when only 37.8 percent of Latino millennials voted.

Gamarra said it's possible that turnout among Latino millennials will be similarly low this year. Meanwile, their lack of political engagement could stifle the power of the Latino vote as a whole. On the other hand, older Latinos tend to be more appreciative and likely to take advantage of their right to vote.

Hope for Young Latinos

On a brighter note, there is also a chance that Latino turnout could surpass Election Day expectations, depending on the investment and outreach effort put forth to galvanize Latino voters. With enough voter registration drives targeting young Latinos, Gamarra believes that there could be an increase in the number of millennial voters expected to participate in the presidential elections.

"Unless you get this young group to register and exercise their right to vote, they're not going to be that great promise that everybody thinks," Gamarra said. "The potential to be really important in elections is there."

Future of the Latino Vote

Pew shows that millennials will significantly increase the Hispanic electorate over the next two decades. But they need to be pushed to exercise their right to vote in order to influence issues like immigration reform and deportation.

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