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The 'Latino’ Influence on the 2012 Presidential Elections

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Politics
Wordcount: 5046 words Published: 6th Aug 2021

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 “We do not have government by the majority. We have government by the majority who participate.” These words were spoken by Thomas Jefferson, one of the founding fathers of the United States, and they remain just as relevant today. Voting has been the shaping indicator of how our country has come to flourish throughout the years. As a democracy, our vote impacts the political landscape at both the state and federal level, shaping the future of our country for years to come through the leaders the people vote in. In my research paper, I examine to what extent Latinos influenced the 2012 Presidential Election. To achieve this, I will first focus on the Latino migrant inflow into the U.S. in the late 90s to the early 2000s, to see their effect on the socio-economic landscape of the U.S. and how specific legislation benefited or hindered them, which after that translated to their voting behavior. The 2012 Election had a particular implication on the Latino community as a massive wave of them voted during that election (Sanchez, 2015). I then want to discuss the trends that Latinos usually vote in for their candidate, the specific issues that they look for in a candidate that best advocates and represents issues vital to them, and usually by what party they tend to vote as. At this time in politics (2012), many minority groups were able to identify with Obama, simply because he was not white, and was a minority.  Former President Barack Obama and his progressive ideology also aligned with Latino voters (Sanchez, 2015). Many of these Latino voters were issue voters who were able to identify with Obama because of his stance on a growing real economy and his appeal toward pro-reform in regard to immigration (Sanchez, 2015). Due to these factors, the Latino vote was significant in Barack Obama’s victory in the 2012 election. To amplify the extent to which Latinos influenced the 2012 presidential elections, I will concentrate on two states in which the Latino population had a significant impact on the outcomes of the 2012 presidential election. These states are the New Mexico state and California.

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Notably, none of the ethnic or racial groups have had a significant impact on the demography of the United States as much as the Latinos have over the last decades (Gutiérrez, 2016). For instance, the population of Latinos in the entire United States was approximately about 500,000 in the year 1900. However, due to the economic development and international policies encouraging the Hispanic groups to migrate into the USA, and the reduction of the Asian immigrants into America, the population of Latinos significantly grew over the years. By 1990, the population of Latinos stood at 22.4 million, which is a significant increase from the 14.6 million Latinos recorded in 1980 (Gutiérrez, 2016). Moreover, the population further increased in the year 2010 to 50 million. Latinos mainly comprise of Puerto Ricans, Cubans, and Mexicans. In the year 2010, Puerto Ricans made up 9.2%, Cubans made up 3.5% while Mexicans contributed to the largest population at 63% of the total Latino population (50 Million). Notably, other groups that comprised the entire Latino population included Central Americans at 7.9%, South Americans at 5.5%, and Dominicans at 2.8 Percent. The Cuban, Mexican and Puerto Rican population grew considerably between 2000 and 2010 (Gutiérrez, 2016). Latino population from the south and Central America grew at a much higher rate.

The Census Bureau recognized Latinos as the largest minority group in the United States. That was after a 40% increase in the population of the Latinos between 1980 and 2010 (Gutiérrez, 2016). These are the decades that led to the most dramatic impact of the Hispanic population. The growth of Latino to be the largest minority group in the US is quite commendable, mainly because the Latinos population was half that of black Americans in 1980. The dramatic population growth continued all through the 2000s, where the Latino population stood approximately above 50 million, which is about 16% of the national population (Gutiérrez, 2016). Despite the various legislations that hinder the immigration of Latinos into the country, their population continues to rise. For instance, in the year 2016, the Latino population was at 56.5 million, which is slightly above 17% of the national population.

After getting into the country, Latinos settled in specific states and cities in the US (Gutiérrez, 2016). The Latino destination countries are commonly referred to as immigrant hubs. These are the countries where most minority groups tend to reside in. The immigrant hub states include California, New Mexico, Nevada, Texas, Arizona, Florida, New York, New Jersey, Colorado, and Illinois (Gutiérrez, 2016).  One of the immigrant cities is Los Angeles. Between the years 1990 and 2010, Los Angeles became the home of many Latino immigrants. Because of the increased number of Immigrants, the white Americans in the city felt threatened by the increasing number of Latinos in the city to the extent that it almost felt like an invasion.  As a result, Latinos became victims of unfair treatment in terms of inadequate compensation, poor working conditions, and undesirable living environments, among others. Notably, the Latinos felt the need to beat the system suppressing them. It would also be inaccurate to argue that Latinos in other parts of the nation had better experiences. Because of the rapid increase in number, Americans felt threatened and devised methods to suppress or try to reduce the rate of immigration. Some of the ways included inadequate compensation, poor working conditions, and undesirable living environments, among others (Gutiérrez, 2016). Because of such experiences, Latinos are most likely to identify with a political leader willing to fight for their struggles, a leader who promises to bring solutions to the challenges and problems they face.

The rise of the Latino Population not only affected the demography of the nation but also other sectors of the society, including the economy, education, medicine, politics, among others (Sukumaran, 2019). For instance, Latinos are both political voters and have various representatives who are Latino in the government. The business sector of the economy also relies on Latinos as consumers, workers, employees as well as entrepreneurs (Sukumaran, 2019). Latino students and Latino educators appear in the top ranks in higher education. Also, Latinos are both providers as well as recipients of the healthcare system. Latinos also provide some of the best religious leaders and adherents in the country. The rapid growth of the Latino population also led to the blurring of many boundaries, including international, identity and language boundaries (Bauböck & Rundell, 2018). Transnational Migration blurred identity boundaries and international boundaries. The increased use of Spanish in the United States also led to the blurring of language boundaries (Bauböck & Rundell, 2018). For example, Former President Obama campaigned in Spanish in the states where most Latinos reside in such as California and New Mexico. Moreover, the Spanish language found its way into colleges and universities.

However, despite the blurring effect, the growth of the Latino population in the US is unable to eliminate one significant distinction. The majority of the Latinos living in the US (especially Puerto Ricans and Mexicans) are considered as the “colonized groups.” that is because they found their way in the US due to the effects of warfare. As a result, these Latinos have occupied low positions in the county’s economic and social hierarchy, which is a condition that has existed in the history of America for many years (Terriquez, 2014). Because of the low positions, a significant population size of Latino work in hard labor jobs, farms, among other demanding jobs with minimum wages. Because of the reduced earning abilities, they also reside in poor neighborhoods as opposed to the whites who can afford to live in affluent areas (Terriquez, 2014). Latino’s great diversity avails a challenge in comprehending the rate and extent to which they integrate into the mainstream society. Therefore, policymakers, educators, entrepreneurs, among others, need to have a comprehensive knowledge of the Latino population to understand and serve their specific needs.

The article by Khalid lists down the voting trends of Latino voters as reflected by the presidential elections from the year 2000 to the year 2016. In the 2000 presidential elections, the majority of Latino voters voted for the democrat prospect at 62 %, while 35% voted for the Republican (Khalid, 2016). In the 2004 presidential elections, 53% of Latino voters voted for a democrat prospect, while 44% voted from the republican prospect. In the 2008 presidential elections, 67% of Latino voters voted for Barack Obama, while 31% voted the republican prospect (Khalid, 2016). In the 2008 presidential elections, 67% of Latino voters voted for a democratic candidate, while 31% voted from the republican. In the 2012 presidential elections, 71% of Latino voters voted for Barack Obama, while 27% voted from the Romney. In the 2016 presidential elections, 66% of Latino voters voted for a democrat prospect, while 28% voted from the republican prospect (Khalid, 2016). From the above representation, it is evident that Latinos tend to identify with the democrats as opposed to republicans. Notably, the difference between the number of Latino voters supporting the Democrats and those supporting republicans is significantly significant. It was only in the 2004 presidential elections when the numbers came close with democrats at 53% while republics got 44% votes from the Latino voters.

The Latino population is significantly large in the United States, making up to 16% of the nation’s population in the year 2010 (Garcia, 2016). Ideally, the higher the population, the higher the number of voters. Therefore, Presidential candidates have to appeal to the needs and wants of Latino community and the ethnic groups within. Every time there is an election in the US, the focus on the minority groups always increases. Hispanic or Latino is currently (and was in the year 2012) the largest minority group. Since they hit the significant demographic millstone (50 million people), presidential candidates had to win the votes of this group. Of the over 50 million Latinos in 2010, 21 million were eligible voters (13 million registered voters and 8 million eligible but unregistered voters). The growth rate of the Latino population was 43%, which is four times that of the nation’s population growth between 1980 and 2010 (Garcia, 2016).

More than 50 thousand Latinos turned 18 years every month (Garcia, 2016). As a result, in the 2012 elections, 2.4 million Latinos were new eligible voters who turned 18 years (voting age according to the constitution) between 2008 and 2012. Notably, every year, a significant number of white individuals exist the electoral pool because of death and getting old while new voters (persons turning 18 years) from the minority groups enter the electoral pool replacing the existing white individuals. Logically, relying on the youth votes when the white aging population is leaving the electoral pool while the youth from minority groups increase every year can contribute to victory. Moreover, when the white votes are shared, the ethnic groups become the vital key to the entry into the white house. Notably, Former President Obama and his opponent (Romney) shared the white votes in the 2012 presidential elections, which meant that winning the votes of minority groups would lead to a significant difference in votes. Additionally, the majority of the first time Latino voted (youth voters) were undecided on the presidential candidate (Garcia, 2016).

Latinos helped former President Obama win the presidential elections. Latinos comprised 10% of the voters for the first time (Rodriguez, 2012). 71% of Hispanic voters voted from Obama, while only 27% of the Hispanic voters voted for Romney. That was a significant increase from 2008, where there were 19 million eligible Latino voters, and Obama got 67% of the Latino votes (Rodriguez, 2012). Notably, Latinos made up 9% of the total votes cast. Latinos identified with Candidate Barack Obama as he embodied various Latino values (Rodriguez, 2012).

Case Study

In California State, Latinos comprised the majority of the population of the state at 14 million (Garcia, 2016). Notably, Latinos made up the second-largest group of eligible voters in the state with a margin of 1% or 2% from the whites who had the most eligible voters.  Barack Obama got 59.3 % (6,493,924) of the total votes cast while Romney got 38.3% (4,202,127) of the total votes. Of the votes Obama gathered in California, the majority (71%) were from Latino voters (Morin & Pantoja, 2015). From the results of the election, it is evident that Latinos influenced the results of the presidential elections in California in 2012. Therefore, California can be an excellent case study to establish the influence of Latinos on the 2012 presidential elections as well as the reasons behind their vote behavior (Morin & Pantoja, 2015).

Notably, voters need to be called and encourage to vote. Therefore during the campaigns, the democrats employed the use of civic organizations to reach the people of California. In addition to the civic organizations, they also used Spanish media to reach the Latino population.  Spanish media included newspapers, television, and radio (Morin & Pantoja, 2015). Because of the relentless campaign, democrats were able to reach the majority of the Latinos. The republicans, on the other hand, did not effectively reach the Latinos in California as they focused their resources on other states. Republicans reached approximately one-third of the Latino population. As a result, Latinos felt alienated, thus identifying with the democrats (Morin & Pantoja, 2015). Moreover, Barack Obama, who got the most of Latino votes run for office as a democrat, which made him more appealing to the Latinos as they tend to vote for democrats.

Additionally, one of the most important topics/issues to Latinos is immigration (Morin & Pantoja, 2015). Immigration comes in second after economical aspects. Obama appeared to be the most immigrant sympathetic candidate. That is because, as the president in June, pushed for more favorable immigration legislations offering renewable work permits to the illegal immigrants. Republicans, on the other end, advocated form anti-immigration policies. For example, Senate Bill 1070 passed in Arizona in 2010, allowed police officers to check the immigration status of all detained persons. The Bill also incited other regions across the US to pass a similar law. Latinos were among the victims of the policy as the majority of the undocumented immigrants in the US are Latino. Therefore, the majority of Latinos did not agree with the policy as even the documented Hispanics had undocumented friends, family members or even workmates (Morin & Pantoja, 2015). The idea of Romney to deal with immigration was to make the conditions so intolerable that the undocumented individuals would find it impossible to live in the United States and deport themselves to their home countries. Because Obama seemed to be more sympathetic towards immigrants, most Latinos voted from him, with very few voting for Romney.

Another issue why Latinos identified with former President Obama is because of his willingness to involve them in economic decisions (Morin & Pantoja, 2015). Obama proposed a policy that would increase the rates of taxation to individuals earning more than $250, 000 to fund education and early childhood programs. As mentioned above, Latinos rank in the lowest positions in the social and economic hierarchy in the nation because they face the challenge of unfair treatment in terms of wages and working conditions. As a result, the majority of the Latinos are trying to survive with the minimum budget possible. Therefore, the proposal came out as an alternative that would prevent taxing the Latinos much more, which would further deteriorate their economic capabilities. Thus, the proposal appealed to most of the Latino population (Morin & Pantoja, 2015). Republicans, on the other hand, rejected the proposition and questions its integrity, which is an action that caused them dearly in terms of Latino voters.

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In New Mexico, Latino made up 47.3% of the total population in the state. Native Americans contributed to 10% of the total population (Sanchez & Youngman, 2015). As a result, New Mexico is one of the states in the US, where the minority groups contribute to the significant size of the population.  Latinos in New Mexico have participated in politics for a long time since the 17th century. Latinos demographics and their past participation in political activities gave them a significant power to influence the 2012 presidential elections.  For example, the analysis of the presidential elections before 2012 reveals that Latinos have significantly influenced the outcomes of the elections. Latinos contributed to 33%-40% of the total eligible voters in New Mexico. In 2012, Latinos contributed to 37% of the total votes cast. Obama won with 53% of the total votes, while Romney only got 42% of the votes. Of the total votes, Obama got 75% of Latino votes while Romney got 23% of Latino voters. Obama gathered most of the Latino votes in 17 counties out of the 33 counties in the state (Sanchez & Youngman, 2015). The counties Obama acquired most include Dona Ana, Santa Fe, Bernalillo, Grant, and Hidalgo, among others.  According to the election polls, Latinos contributed to 22% of Obama’s victory in New Mexico. In other words, Latino votes game Obama an advantage over Romney (Latino votes led contributed to republican’s loss).

During the campaign, Obama utilized field officers who made it possible for the democrats to reach most Latinos, including those living in rural areas (Sanchez & Youngman, 2015). Instead of relying on celebrity Latinos, Obama’s campaign relied on the use of local Latinos. The republicans, on the other hand, mainly focused on large metropolitan regions as Romany argued that Obama’s groundwork was a waste of time. By the end of the campaign, the democrats had reached almost three-quarters of the Latino population in Mexico, while the republicans had only reached about 4% of the Latino (Sanchez & Youngman, 2015). Notably, Obama's campaign understood that most Mexicans could speak English and thus spent a lesser budget on Spanish ads and Spanish media, unlike in other states. Moreover, the message of the campaign appealed to the New Mexican politics dynamics.  As a result, democrats got to appeal to most of the Latino population, unlike the republicans, thus influencing the results of elections in favor of the democrats.

Even though the number of undocumented immigrants in New Mexico is minimal, the issue of immigration had a significant influence on voting behavior (Sanchez & Youngman, 2015). That is because Immigration issues carried much weight after economic issues that Latinos face. Notably, the third and fourth generations of Latinos make up a significant percentage of the population in New Mexico. However, because of the solidarity and togetherness of all Latinos in the United States, Latinos in New Mexico took the issue of immigration with much weight.  Romney advocated for anti-immigration policies, including his proposition to veto the Dream Act, supporting the 2010 Arizona Senate Bill 1070 and self-deportation strategy that would make it impossible for undocumented immigrants to live in the US. Romney’s policies regarding immigration did not attract votes from Latinos in New Mexico. On the other hand, Obama pushed for a policy that would allow undocumented immigrants to apply for renewable work permits (Sanchez & Youngman, 2015). Because of this policy, 60% of Latino’s were willing to vote for Obama as they saw him as the only candidate who cared for the needs of Latinos while 20% of the Latino’s were ready to vote for Romney (especially those against the idea of favorable immigration policies)

From the two states (the state of California and New Mexico), the Latinos voted for the democrat candidate (Barack Obama). Notably, because of the size of the Latino population in the two states, both California and New Mexico can be used to study/represent the voting behaviors, and the influence of Latinos in the United States not only in the 2012 presidential election but other elections before and after 2012.  The majority of the Latinos in both states voted for Barack Obama. The voting behavior tends to imitate that portrayed by Latinos residing in the US wherein the 2012 presidential election, 71% of Latino voters voted for the democrat prospect, while 27% voted from the republican. The same trend is also visible from the year 2004 to 2016, where Latinos vote for the democrat candidates. The high Latino votes contributed to a significant advantage towards Obama’s victory. It would be accurate to argue that Barack Obama would have lost to Romney without the votes from the Latinos. 

Notably, the reasons why Latino voters voted for Obama in both states are similar, which implies that both states represent the specific needs of the Latino community. One of the significant reasons is the immigration issue (Barreto & Collingwood, 2015). In both states, Latinos considered the issue of immigration as one of the most crucial challenges. In both states, Latinos voted for Obama because he appeared to be the most sympathetic candidates towards immigrants in the United States. Because Latinos contribute to the most significant number of undocumented immigrants, they voted for Obama, who would easy the stay of the undocumented Latinos in the US. Notably, very few Latinos voted for Romney, who advocated for strict immigration rules that would make it impossible for undocumented Latinos to live in America. However, the number of Latino voters that identified with Romney (Republican Party) is insignificant compared to the number that identified with Obama regarding the issue of immigration.

Another reason why Latino voters were of massive advantage to Obama is that he run for office as a democrat (Collingwood & Garcia-Rios, 2014). As seen earlier, Latinos tend to vote for the democrat candidates as opposed to republicans. That contributed to a significant degree of the results of the election as Latinos did not switch parties. Moreover, Obama was a black candidate, whom the Latinos felt like they could identify with him because he is a person of color and would best understand their challenges as opposed to Romney, who was a white candidate (Stout, & Garcia, 2015). Notably, in the state of California, Latinos believe that he is the only candidate who genuinely cared about the needs of the Latinos (Morin & Pantoja, 2015). Being a black candidate and the fact that Obama spoke Spanish had a significant impact on the voting behaviors of the Latino, which swayed the outcomes of the elections towards his advantage.

His Spanish campaign ads and his well-formulated messages specifically to Latinos (Dreamers, who are young Latinos) also contributed towards his victory (Chavkin, 2012). Obama told the Hispanics that as a father he could relate to the challenges the dreamers face and that as a president he admired their bravery, which reminded him that no there are no obstacles that are impossible to defeat. Obama also asserts that as a father, he sees the qualities that he and his wife (Michelle) try to death their daughter (Chavkin, 2012). This message and desire to support the dreamers had a far-reaching impact. It is one of the reasons that Latinos in California believed that Obama was the candidate who cared for their needs. Furthermore, Latinos have supported Obama as he embodied the Latino values. As a result, the more significant population of Latinos voted for him, thus influence the outcomes of the 2012 presidential elections since Latinos make a substantial number of eligible voters in the US.


To conclude, The United States saw record numbers in regards to the Latino Vote in the 2012 Election as opposed to previous years. Two of the states in New Mexico and California, both heavily contributed to the election due to the large population of Latinos they had in the state, and the majority of these voters proved vital in the 2012 election. Obama, a new face running during these elections was a breath of fresh air for these Latino voters, because he wasn’t white and had done his best to relate with these voters. Since Obama wasn’t white, it made it easier for many minority groups to identify with him and understand that he may actually be advocating for the issues they would like the government to do. One of the ways he had done this was campaigning in Spanish to relate to many of those people from the Latino community, who may have not known how to speak or understand English, another way was standing firm on his stance in pushing forward toward a pro-immigration reform appeal. Obama also had the upper-hand with Latino voters because he was Democrat, and many of these Latino voters were able to identify with the Democratic party more and had shown their allegiance to that party, in voting for that party for years to come. These factors proved pivotal for Obama in winning the 2012 election, primarily through getting the vote of minorities.

The minority vote has shown to become of huge importance in the political landscape of the United States. As the population of the U.S. has seen an increase in immigration, it is now more than ever crucial to be able to identify with these voters, and more importantly get them to vote. The reason for this, is that many immigrants who are able and willing to become U.S. citizens, are immigrants. According to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, they received 986,851 applications for citizenship and naturalized 707,265 individuals (Blizzard, 2019). With this statistic alone, I believe that it is crucial and vital to for political candidates in the future to be able to identify and put a special importance on these minority groups, doing so will help increase voter turnout in the future, policies that are created for their benefit will also then transcend in higher political participation as a result, and lastly will make these newly naturalized immigrants that are citizens, feel as if they have something positive to contribute to society.


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