A record 23.7 million Latinos are eligible to vote in the 2012 presidential election, according to an analysis of Census Bureau data by the Pew Hispanic Center, a project of the Pew Research Center. This is up by more than 4 million, or 22%, since 2008, when 19.5 million Latinos were eligible to vote.
Latinos are the nation’s largest minority group. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, in 2011 there were 51.9 million Latinos in the U.S., making up 16.7% of the nation’s population.
However, the turnout rate of eligible Latino voters historically lags that of whites and blacks by substantial margins. In 2008, for example, 50% of eligible Latino voters cast ballots, compared with 65% of blacks and 66% of whites (Lopez and Taylor, 2009).
Also, despite ongoing Latino population growth, the number of Latinos who said they are registered to vote fell by about 600,000 between 2008 and 2010, according to Census Bureau data. This was the only significant decline in the number of Latino registered voters in the past two decades.
There is not yet any nationwide data on Latino voter registration levels so far in 2012. In the only four states that report such records by ethnicity—Alabama, Florida, Georgia and North Carolina—the 2012 registration levels of Hispanics have already surpassed the 2008 levels. However, these states are not necessarily representative of the nation as a whole; more so than most other states, they have experienced very rapid growth in their Hispanic population in recent years.
With rapid growth in the size of the Latino electorate, Latinos today make up a greater share of the nation’s 215 million eligible voters than they did just a few years ago. This year, Latinos make up 11.0% of eligible voters nationwide, up from 9.5% in 2008 and 8.2% in 2004 (Lopez and Taylor, 2009).
As the number of Latino eligible voters has grown, so too has the number of Latinos casting votes in presidential elections. In 2008, 9.7 million Latinos cast a vote—a record then, and up from 7.6 million in 2004, also a record year. In addition, Latinos represent a growing share of voters. In 2008, Hispanics made up 7.4% of all voters, up from 6.0% in 2004 (Lopez and Taylor, 2009).
Nonetheless, Hispanics are still a smaller part of the potential electorate than might be expected given their rapid population growth and