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Fear of Trump did not increase Latino participation in the 2016 election, according to Census data

The share of eligible Latinos who voted in 2016 stood unchanged from 2012, at less than 50 percent. But Latino participation did grow in absolute numbers.
Univision News Logo
12 May 2017 – 11:55 AM EDT
Los Angeles students protest Trump the week after the presidential election. Crédito: Getty

The Latino vote remained stable in the 2016 presidential election between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, according to data released Thursday from the U.S. Census Bureau, which showed that 47.6 percent of eligible Latinos voted, compared to 48 percent in 2012.

That was in spite of expectations that the campaign would mobilize Hispanics to vote against the Republican presidential candidate and his anti-immigrant views.

The decrease of 0.4 percent is within the margin of error, which is 1.5 percent.

Latino participation in absolute numbers grew to 12.7 million, compared to 11.2 million in 2012, due to demographic growth over the last four years.

But Latinos were the most apathetic demographic group in 2016. The participation rate of Asian voters increased to 49.3 percent in 2016, up from 46.9 percent in 2012 and outperforming Hispanics for the first time since 1996. Asians continue to represent a smaller proportion of voters than Hispanics: overall, about 5 million Asians voted in 2016, up from 3.8 million in 2012.

A record 14 million Latinos who were eligible to vote in 2016 did not.

"The number of [Hispanic] non-voters is growing faster than the number of voters," Pew Research Center's director of Hispanic research Mark Hugo Lopez told Univision.

He attributes that in part to the share of young voters in the Hispanic electorate. "Young people are less likely to vote across the board," he said. "It’s important to reach out to young, first-time Latino voters."

This was the sixth consecutive presidential election in which the Hispanic vote remained below 50 percent.

Other explanations for the lower turnout rate could be a lack of Latino voter outreach. Lopez said. Some advocacy groups reportedly lacked funding last year and had to be selective about states where they concentrated their efforts.

It could also be a reflection of where Latinos live, Lopez added, noting that the majority are bunched in non-competitive states such as Texas, California and New York where either the Republican or Democratic party holds such an advantage that voters may be less inclined to bother going to the polls.

Other research on Latino voting indicates that participation may have been up last year, according to Matt Barreto at Latino Decisions, which did work for the Clinton campaign.

When examining turnout among those who are registered, rather than overall eligibility, "the Latino turnout rate is fairly similar to the non-Latino turnout rate," he said. "It is still lower, but not dramatically. What this means is that the real issue of concern is addressing the voter registration gap, and dedicating more resources to voter education, voter outreach and voter registration programs."

Low Latino participation was one of the factors analysts have cited to explain Clinton's defeat. Democrat Clinton needed high Hispanic turnout to win closely contested states where a large number of eligible Hispanics reside, such as Florida, Nevada or Colorado. Clinton lost in Florida, the swing state with the highest number of electoral votes, 29.

Last year, more naturalized-citizen Hispanic voters (those born in another country who naturalized to become U.S. citizens) voted than U.S.-born Hispanics: 53.4 percent versus 45.5 percent.

A record 137.5 million Americans voted in the 2016 presidential election, according to the census. Overall voter turnout was 61.4 percent in 2016, a share similar to 2012 but below the 63.6 percent who say they voted in 2008, according to a Pew Research Center analysis.

Black voter turnout fell for the first time in 20 years to 59.6 percent, after reaching a record 66.6 percent in 2012. Meanwhile, the participation of whites was 65.3 percent, a slight increase from the 64.1 percent who voted in 2012, also within the margin of error.