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Elecciones Estados Unidos 2020

The Latino vote substantially increased in this election — this is what we know

Amid the pandemic, at least 14 million Latinos cast their vote, surpassing all initial projections. Young Latino voters now make up the largest bloc within the Latino electorate, but Latinas too showed up in high numbers.
17 Nov 2020 – 03:46 PM EST
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More than 1.7 million young Latinos voted early, a 313 percent increase from 2016. Crédito: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

A record number of Latinos voted in the 2020 presidential election.

How many exactly? We don't know yet.

"Latino turnout was record-breaking — it shattered previous records," said Stephanie Valencia, co-founder and president of EquisLabs, a polling and research firm specializing in Latino voters.

While initial indications point to a record turnout, official estimates may not be released for several months.

"Often, one has to wait until the Census Bureau's estimate of the number of voters is published (sometime between April and June)," explained Mark Hugo Lopez, director of global migration and demography at the Pew Research Center.

“Voter files” with government records of who is registered to vote and who cast ballots broken down by race might be available earlier than the Current Population Survey (CPS) by the Census Bureau — maybe in February or March.

An early sketch drawn from preliminary post-election surveys, county-level vote returns, and projections estimates that at least 14 million Latinos voted in 2020, an increase from 2016 when 12.65 million Latinos cast their votes.

Gary Segura of Latino Decisions mentioned that it is hard to know what Latino turnout was, but their guess "is somewhere between 15 and 16 million, what would be a substantial increase over the previous cycle." In September, his political research firm launched a nine-week tracking poll of the Latino electorate, in conjunction with NALEO Educational Fund, and completed 15,200 interviews with Latino, Black, AAPI, American Indian, and white registered voters who had already voted or were sure to vote.

"While it's unclear how many Latinos voted as of now," added Lopez, "it's likely there was a new record. And as many organizations have indicated, it may be at 15 million or so."

Early vote data by states confirm this increase in turnout.

Over 8 million Latinos voted early, compared to 3.7 million in 2016, according to NALEO. "We already saw more than twice as many Latino voters having cast their ballots than they did at the same time in 2016," said NALEO CEO Arturo Vargas, in an email to subscribers on November 2, quoting numbers and analysis on absentee voting, vote-by-mail, and ballots cast otherwise three days before Election Day.

TargetSmart, a polling firm that works with Democratic candidates, published similar numbers.

In Wisconsin, for example, the number of Latinos who voted early doubled from 2016 to 2020; in Michigan, the Latino vote increased by five times according to Catalist, a Democratic data firm, whose estimates are based on individual-level vote history records, precinct results, and pre-election data.

In Pennsylvania, Latino early voting is up 840 percent compared to 2016. Latino early voting is also up 148 percent in North Carolina, 133 percent in Florida, 124 percent in Arizona, 147 percent in Texas and 147 percent in Nevada, per Voto Latino. "In early voting, Latino turnout is at its highest level ever."

But, is this increase in voter turnout simply a matter of population growth?

Partially, yes.

At the time of the 2016 election, there were 27.3 million eligible Latino voters in 2016 — U.S. citizens ages 18 and older — according to data released from the U.S. Census. This year, a record 32 million Latinos were eligible to vote, as stated by the Pew Research Center.

There have been different reasons for this increase, including Latino immigrants who obtained U.S. citizenship and a growing out-migration from Puerto Rico to the U.S. mainland. However, the main reason is Latino youth turning 18 and becoming eligible to vote.

"The universe of Latino voters is growing. That growth is fueled by young people in states like California, Arizona and Texas", said Matt Barreto, professor of political science and Chicano/a studies at UCLA and co-founder of Latino Decisions.

This youth force shows very clearly in early voter numbers. More than 1.7 million young Latinos (ages 18-29) voted early, an increase of 313 percent from 2016, according to NALEO, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that facilitates Latino participation in the American political process, from citizenship to public service.

Another nonprofit organization, Voto Latino, that primary aims to encourage young Hispanic and Latino voters to register to vote and become more politically involved, mentions that across the battleground states of Texas, Florida, Pennsylvania, Nevada, Arizona, and North Carolina, a full 33 percent of Latino early votes came from voters who did not cast a ballot in 2016.

Young Latino voters "make up the largest bloc within the Latino electorate, the only group for which this is the case," Voto Latino stated recently.

Was there also an increase in ‘voter enthusiasm’ among Latinos in 2020? Experts say that yes, the increase in turnout was not only a matter of an increase in the pool of eligible voters.

"Our research indicates that Latino voter turnout has increased beyond population growth," said Michael Frias, CEO of Catalist.

Valencia explains that it is probably a mix of new voters and "voters who were sitting on the sidelines." These are citizens who didn't vote in previous elections "who decided to show up and vote this time, for whatever reason. (...) People who are finally coming out of the dark and deciding and coming off the sidelines to vote."

A big part of this subset of "voters sitting on the sidelines" were Latina women.

Preliminary numbers by Catalist from voting information, not polls, showed that Latina working-class voters without a college education cast more than 1.8 million early votes in 2020 compared to 589,000 early ballots in 2016.

"Latinas had a confidence gap in where they weren't voting at the same levels as Black and white women because they didn't feel prepared enough, or they didn't feel like they had enough information," explains Valencia. But not anymore. "Arizona: 55 percent of the early votes were from Latinas. (...) Wisconsin: 57 percent. (...) Michigan: 60 percent," recounted Valencia. "Latinos showed up big-time, and Latinas specifically showed up in a really big way."

One of the newest organizations centered on mobilizing the Latina vote for this election was She Se Puede. Created "For Latinas, By Latinas," they brought together activists and artists such as Eva Longoria, America Ferrera, and Mónica Ramírez. The campaign not only focused on being uniquely Latina, but also, at the same time, talked about being a woman, and being a mother.

Elsa Collins, one of the She Se Puede founders, told Univision: "Latinas really have understood the importance of voting and the importance of elections. They turned out at a level that we had never seen. We tripled our early voter turnout."

Why did Latinos vote this time?

Latinos are neither single-issue voters nor a monolithic bloc.

However, a national poll run by NALEO and Latino Decisions before the election indicates that 55 percent of Latinos believe "responding to Coronavirus/COVID-19" is the most critical issue they want the next president to address.

COVID has altered the landscape and is underlying several policy considerations in this election. A recent study from McKinsey and Company found that the 60 million Hispanics and Latinos in the country have suffered a relatively large share of the health and economic effects due to the pandemic. Latino-owned businesses are also disproportionately represented in the hardest-hit sectors: hospitality, transportation, retail and construction.

"It is now widely known that COVID-19 infections have disproportionately affected the Hispanic community — a cohort also affected by lower rates of insurance coverage — so this was likely top of mind and a motivating factor on Election Day," agrees Cristina Lopez-Gottardi Chao, assistant professor and research director for public and policy programs at the Miller Center, a nonpartisan affiliate of the University of Virginia.

The Immigration Initiative at Harvard shared similar data a month before the election, saying that the top policy issues for Latino voters were:

  • Responding to the coronavirus (46 percent).
  • Lowering health care costs (32 percent).
  • Addressing racism and discrimination (27 percent).
  • Creating more jobs (24 percent) and immigration reform (19 percent).

Amid the national reckoning on racial issues, racism and discrimination became one of the critical issues that motivated Latinos to vote, according to NALEO. "This is a radical departure from past surveys, where racism and discrimination rarely registered as important for Latinos," they added.

In the weeks following the police killing of George Floyd, millions of Americans marched in the streets. At the peak of the protests — around June 6, according to publicly collected data from the Crowd Counting Consortium — people across all 50 states had participated in demonstrations that called for racial justice and an end to police violence. Many were compelled to action and even participated in protests for the first time in their lives.

These protests are among the longest in modern American history, and the issue displaced the importance of immigration reform for Latino voters, which fell several spots. "In past surveys, immigration reform was often among the top three issues for Latinos, and in some instances, it was the number one issue for immigrants," recounted NALEO.

Regardless of the specific issues that brought Hispanics to the polls, civic engagement and a willingness to participate in the democratic process appear to be at an all-time high. The Immigration Initiative at Harvard asked Latinos about their involvement in activities in-person or online. What they found was "high levels of participation" among registered Latinos: among all registered Latinos, 81 percent said they had discussed politics with family and friends.

Where did Latinos vote? Latinos made up an estimated 9 percent of all voters nationwide, according to AP VoteCast. But two in three eligible Latino voters live in just five states, according to the Pew Research Center.

California alone holds roughly a quarter of the nation's Latino electorate. Texas is second, followed by Florida, New York and Arizona.

But right now, we are experiencing a historic and significant demographic shift.

"While Latinos have traditionally been accepted as a key voting group in Texas, California, Nevada, Florida and Arizona, they are now important coalition members in states like North Carolina, Georgia and Wisconsin," wrote Stephen Nuño-Perez and Adrian D. Pantoja for the Immigration Initiative at Harvard.

Michigan and Pennsylvania can be added to that list too.

The Latino population has grown faster in the South than in any other U.S. region since 2010. It has increased by 26 percent since 2010, rising from 18.3 million to 23.1 million. It was followed by the Midwest and Northeast, which both saw increases of 18 percent during the same period.

"We've also seen is that in the Southwest, we have a new Latino force to be reckoned with in the Southwest (... ) I think it just says a lot about years and years of work that go into organizing, into building power for our community," stated Valencia.

Yes, Latino turnout is also a testament to the work of dozens of organizations, and activists, in the field, especially in critical battleground states, who helped Latinos register to vote and navigate a system that many find complicated and intimidating, such as early voting and voting by mail.

"This cycle we learned that when there is an investment and when there are people on the ground working in the community, Latinos turn out and vote — even during a pandemic," said Héctor Sánchez Barba, executive director and CEO of Mi Familia Vota, an organization that registered 550,000 voters in nine states during this electoral cycle.

"Yes, our future is bright, women-led and Latina-led," added Yadira Sanchez, co-executive director of PoderLatinx, which registered over 40,000 Latinx voters and uplifted the role of music and art as a bridge to engage eligible voters via its “Votar es Poder” campaign, including through collaboration with Las Cafeteras and more than a dozen other Latino artists. "We must work together to create change. This election is about all of us, and we are seeing the effects of what can happen when we work together," the organization said in a recent statement on social media.

Valencia thinks that the Latino vote matters in so many more states today than it did 15 years ago. That's one reason why it's critical to deepen the understanding of the Latino electorate moving forward.

" I think what this election made clear is we are no longer a sleeping giant," she said. "We're getting bigger, not smaller, and there's just so much opportunity for our community to put a stamp on the issues that we're talking about, on the people we're putting into office, all of those things our community is going to have a seat at the table for now."

What we know about the Latino vote by state

North Carolina:

  • 19 percent of all voters in North Carolina are Latinos, according to AP VoteCast:
  • 40 percent of Latino voters in North Carolina who voted early were first-time voters, according to Voto Latino.
  • North Carolina's Latino population has grown by 28 percent since the 2010 Census.


  • 18 percent of all voters in Arizona are Latinos, according to AP VoteCast:
  • 65 percent of Latino voters in Arizona said racism and discrimination against Latinos had increased over the last four years.
  • "In the past decade, Arizona surpassed Illinois as the state with the fourth-largest Latino population in America," said Latino Decisions co-founder Gary Segura.


  • 18 percent of all voters in Florida are Latinos, according to AP VoteCast.
  • "Latino Decisions estimates that 1,900,000 Latino votes are expected when all is said and done in Florida and turnout could be as high as 2 million Latino voters." Source: 2020 American Election Eve Poll.

Pennsylvania 290,000 total Latino votes cast

  • 8 percent of all voters in Pennsylvania are Latinos, according to AP VoteCast.
  • Latino early voting is up 840 percent in Pennsylvania, as stated by Voto Latino.
  • "The Latino population in Pennsylvania grew by 39 percent, from 720,000 to over a million, since 2010," said Latino Decisions co-founder Gary Segura.


  • 29 percent of all voters in Georgia are Latinos, according to AP VoteCast.
  • "Between 2010 and 2019, Georgia's Latino population grew from 854,000 to 1.05 million, a 22.8 percent increase," said Latino Decisions co-founder Gary Segura.



  • According to the Pew Research Center, there are 183,000 eligible Latino voters in Wisconsin, and 135,000 of them voted in the 2020 elections, according to Latino Decisions.


  • 23 percent of all voters in Texas are Latinos, according to AP VoteCast.
  • Latino early voting was up by 147 percent, according to Voto Latino.


  • 14 percent of all voters in Nevada are Latinos, according to AP VoteCast.
  • 235,000 Latino cast their votes, according to a report by Latino Decisions.

New Mexico

  • 35 percent of all voters in New Mexico are Latinos, according to AP VoteCast.


  • 24 percent of all voters in California are Latinos, according to AP VoteCast.

New Jersey

  • 12 percent of all voters in New Jersey are Latinos, according to AP VoteCast.

New York

  • 10 percent of all voters in New York are Latinos, according to AP VoteCast.

8 percent of all voters in Illinois are Latinos, according to AP VoteCast.