Hispanic Voter Project At Johns Hopkins University
By Diane G. Thomas
Graduate Student, Indiana University-Purdue University at Indianapolis (Fall 2005)
The Hispanic Voter Project at Johns Hopkins University is a research project to identify the role of the Hispanic vote in the 2000, 2002, and 2004 elections. This research is collected from two sources: Existing academic research and research by political campaign professionals. The goal is to understand the emerging power of the Latino vote in national elections, also known as the “sleeping giant” of American politics. The information in this abstract is from the four papers published by the Hispanic Voter Project. All were authored by Adam J. Segal, Director of the Project. (Segal 2003)
The Hispanic population in the United States is over 40 Million, and accounts for half of the population growth between 2000 and 2004. This voting bloc is critical in the election of the President of the United States, particularly in the States of New Mexico (40% of eligible voters), Florida (14% of eligible voters), Arizona (16% of eligible voters), and Nevada (13% of eligible voters). In light of the close races for President in both 2000 and 2004, more attention is being given to these voters in key electoral States.
Insight into the political strategies of the Bush campaigns in 2000 and 2004, as well as examination of the Gore campaign in 2000, and the Kerry campaign in 2004 underline the growing importance of Latino organizations, television networks, and leaders. The Hispanic Voter project is an in-depth look at key decisions by presidential campaign professionals and the investment by each campaign in ads targeted to Hispanic voters. The work is published and available on-line (see Related Websites).
The political clout of Hispanic voters in the United States is a result of the tremendous growth in the U.S. population of Hispanic origin. It is estimated that by the year 2125, the United States will be a Hispanic nation. Hispanics will outnumber non-Hispanics, fundamentally changing the demographic composition of this country. The transition has political implications that are just recently being studied through research like the Hispanic Voter Project. The research reveals much about the Hispanic community, its leaders, and media. Hispanic values, as they are understood by politicians and the manner in which they are addressed, is evolving. This work is an important snapshot in a significant event in American life.
Hispanic Americans come from many different Latin nations. A common mistake is to group these new Americans into a single bloc without being sensitive to the differences in their national heritage. Hispanics come from Central America, South America and the Caribbean. They are of African descent and of Spanish descent. Many are from indigenous people within their own country of origin. Generalizations cannot be made about Hispanics. The political research conducted by the Hispanic Voter Project is limited to voting trends only, with attention given to values associated with the various cultures only as they affect the political landscape.
The Project has important findings: The role of language in campaigns, campaign style and messenger (spokesperson), the diversity within the Hispanic community, and the assimilation of Hispanic Americans into the political mainstream.
The number of ads bought by both Presidential campaigns in the 2000 and 2004 elections is an indicator of growing political clout. In 2000, the Bush campaign outspent the Gore campaign by 2-1. Early on, the Hispanic vote was a priority to Republican strategists. Two other factors are relevant: George W. Bush’s Spanish was better than Al Gore’s, and his nephew, George P. Bush was used extensively as a surrogate in the Republican campaign. George P. Bush is the son of Florida Governor, Jeb Bush, and his wife Columba, who is from Mexico.
There is a need for understanding that this is a non-homogeneous community. Political ads that are simply translated from English into Spanish are not as effective as those that are created specifically for the Hispanic community. If there are common denominators beyond language, it is that the issues important to Hispanics voters are jobs, good and safe schools, and healthcare. The most influential messengers are teachers and Latinos in the military.
There has been a great deal of skepticism about the participation of Hispanics in the U.S. election process. There is a lag time between when immigrants become citizens, when new citizens register to vote, and when they become part of the political process. Of the 16 Million potential voters, 9 Million voted. Out of 100, only 40 are of voting age, 23 are registered, and 18 will vote (Frey, 2004). The potential power of the Hispanic vote is still unrealized.
Ties to the Philanthropic Sector
This project is tied to the nonprofit sector in a number of ways. Sponsored by Johns Hopkins University, it is an example of groundbreaking work conducted by a nonprofit institution. The way in which Americans associate and express their diverse opinions is an important part of philanthropic activity.
Universities and Hospitals are nonprofit institutions that have historically led research in all fields. Their work provides government and industry the data and information to make policy and investment decisions. The grants they receive from government, foundations, and individuals are intended to build the base of knowledge. Their purpose is not profit driven.
Social movements are part of the fabric of American culture that seeks to bring changes in societies. These movements seek to correct social injustice, such as discrimination. Americans organize themselves through voluntary associations to articulate their grievances and bring attention to injustice. Hispanics are part of a great tradition of immigrants who have sought ways to assimilate in their new country. By identifying issues of common interest, immigrant and minority groups have been able to bring change through the political process. The vote is one of the most important acts of citizenship.
Key Related Ideas
Civil Rights, as expressed in the Civil Rights Act of 1964: “All persons shall be entitled to be free, at any establishment or place, from discrimination or segregation of any kind on the ground of race, color, religion, or national origin” gives minorities in the United States the right to full participation in society.
Immigration accounts for two-thirds of the growth in the Hispanic population between 1980 and 1990 (Hernandez 2001). This population is very young. Latino youth are vulnerable to poor education, unemployment and juvenile delinquency. A working paper is available on-line that takes an in-depth look at all these issues (see Internet sources below).
The Electoral College system of presidential elections gives States with large populations, thus more electoral college votes, greater value in the political campaigns. Hispanic voters represent a significant number of voters in four of the sixteen ‘key battleground States’: New Mexico, Nevada, Arizona and Florida. These four States account for 47 of the 270 electoral votes needed to win the Presidency. Both political parties have invested increasingly greater amounts of money on Spanish speaking political ads in those States, in an attempt to win their electoral votes.
Important People Related to the Topic
- Jorge Ramos, born in Mexico City on March 16, 1958, has been called “Star Newscaster of Hispanic TV” and “Hispanic TV’s No. 1 correspondent and key to a huge voting bloc” by the Wall Street Journal. Latino Leaders magazine chose him in 2004 as one of “The Ten Most Admired Latinos”. The Miami Herald said, “As household names go, Jorge Ramos is huge. The anchor for Univision’s evening news (where he has been since 1986), he’s actually bigger than Peter Jennings, Dan Rather and Tom Brokaw - at least in Miami, Los Angeles and Houston.” (http://www.univision.com/)
- Bill Richardson was born on November 15th 1947 in Pasadena, California. His mother was Mexican, and his father a native of Boston. Though raised in Mexico, he moved to Santa Fe, New Mexico. In 1982, he was elected to Congress as a Democrat where he spent 14 years. In 1997, he was appointed U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations by President Clinton, then Secretary of Energy in 1998. He was elected Governor of New Mexico in 2002, and intends to run for President of the United States in 2008. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bill_Richardson_%28politician%29)
- Antonio Villaraigosa was born in East Los Angeles on January 23, 1953 of Mexican American parentage. After a troubled youth marred by gang affiliation, he never finished high school. With an honorary degree from Theodore Roosevelt High School, he went on to attend UCLA. A Democrat, he was elected to the California State Assembly and was speaker four years later. He was subsequently elected Mayor of Los Angeles in March 2005, the first Latino Mayor of Los Angeles since 1872. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Villaraigosa)
- Raul Yzaguirre was born in 1939 and became President of the National Council of La Raza. He spearheaded the most influential and respected Hispanic organization in the country. He served as the immediate past Chairperson of the Independent Sector, a nonprofit coalition of over 850 corporate, foundation, and voluntary organizations. In a 1992 profile, Hispanic magazine described Yzaguirre as being "at the center of the Hispanic leadership stage." (Hispanic Heritage Foundation)
Related Nonprofit Organizations
- “The League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) claims 115,000 members throughout the United States and Puerto Rico. LULAC is the largest and oldest Hispanic Organization in the United States. LULAC advances the economic condition, educational attainment, political influence, health and civil rights of Hispanic Americans through community-based programs. Historically, LULAC has focused heavily on education, civil rights, and employment for Hispanics. LULAC councils provide more than a million dollars in scholarships to Hispanic students each year, conduct citizenship and voter registration drives, develop low income housing units, conduct youth leadership training programs, and seek to empower the Hispanic community at the local, state and national level.” (www.lulac.org)
- “The National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO) Educational Fund is the leading organization that empowers Latinos to participate fully in the America political process, from citizenship to public service. Established in 1981, the NALEO Educational Fund carries out this mission by developing and implementing programs that promote the integration of Latino immigrants into American society, developing future leaders among Latino youth, providing assistance and training to the nation's Latino elected and appointed officials and by conducting research on issues important to the Latino population.” (www.naleo.org)
- “The National Council of La Raza (NCLR) – the largest national Hispanic civil rights and advocacy organization in the United States – works to improve opportunities for Hispanic Americans. Founded in 1968, NCLR works through two primary, complementary approaches: Capacity-building assistance to support and strengthen Hispanic community-based organizations: providing organizational assistance in management, governance, program operations, and resource development to Hispanic community-based organizations nationwide. Applied research, policy analysis, and advocacy: providing an Hispanic perspective on issues such as education, immigration, economic policy, housing, health, employment, and civil rights enforcement, to increase policy-maker and public understanding of Hispanic needs and to encourage the adoption of programs and policies that equitably serve Hispanics.” (www.nclr.org)
Political Action Committees such as ACT (American Coming together) are presently suspended. They have combined their efforts in the website America Votes www.americavotes.org. These organizations are responsible for registering thousands of new voters.
A major source of research on Hispanics in the United States: www.pewhispanic.org “Its mission is to improve understanding of the U.S. Hispanic population and to chronicle Latinos' growing impact on the entire nation.”
Bibliography and Internet Sources
Frey, William H. “Minority Myths vs. Reality.” American Demographics, Oct 2004, Vol. 26 Issue 8, 33-35.
Johnson, Kirk. “Hispanic Voters Declare Their Independence.” New York Times, November 9, 2005, Vol. 154 Issue 53028, A1-A20.
Ramos, Jorge. “Jorge Ramos.” Nation, December 20, 2004, Vol. 279 Issue 21, 22-22.
Richardson, Bill. “Seeking the Latino Vote: Democrats can't take Hispanic voters for granted anymore.” Hispanic, Jan/Feb2004, Vol. 17 Issue 1/2, 84.
Segal, Adam J. “The Hispanic Priority.” February (2003). Johns Hopkins University. Accessed 18 November 2005. www.jhu.edu/advanced/government/hvp.
Segal, Adam J. “Hispanic Tuesday: The Hispanic Vote and the 2004 Democratic Primaries.” Johns Hopkins University. Accessed 18 November 2005. www.jhu.edu/advanced/government/hvp.
Segal, Adam J. “Presidential Spanish-Language Political Television Advertising set Records in Early Primaries.” Johns Hopkins University. Accessed 18 November 2005. www.jhu.edu/advanced/government/hvp.
Segal, Adam J. “Bikini Politics.” Johns Hopkins University. Accessed 18 November 2005. www.jhu.edu/advanced/government/hvp.
“The torch has passed” in Economist, May 12, 2005, Vol. 375 Issue 8427, 14-16.
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