A close analysis of America’s growing Latino population – and its increase influence in shaping the country’s future – could be evidence of an important national change looming across the political and civic landscape.
As the Latino population across the United States has grown over the last 10 years, so has interest in politics and leadership.
Scott Gunderson Rosa sees it first hand.
Rosa is director of public relations and media at the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute (CHCI), a nonprofit and nonpartisan leadership development organization established in 1978 iin Washington, D.C. He has seen the number of applications for leadership internships, fellowships and scholarships for the organization more than double in the last five years.
In 2008 the number of applications was about 9,000, Rosa said, and now its ranges from 21,000 to 23,000. In 2012, CHCI served 67 congressional interns, the largest number ever, across its three sessions throughout the year and CHCI’s 2012-13 Fellowship Program served 22 college graduates, including eight graduate fellows.
“That’s a signal there is a need,” he said.
The growing influence of the Hispanic voter in the United States shouldn’t be surprising. According to 2010 U.S. Census Bureau numbers, there are 50.4 million Latinos in the United States, making up 16 percent of the country’s 308.7 million residents. This was up 43 percent from 35.3 million in 2000.
And with that jump comes a larger voter base. The Pew Hispanic Center projects Latinos will account for 40 percent of the growth in the eligible electorate in the U.S. between now and 2030, at which time 40 million Hispanics will be eligible to vote, up from 23.7 million.
Political candidates who want to win their elections continue to court that growing base, said officials from the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials.
“Latino voters were a decisive force in the 2012 White House race, where they accounted for 10 percent of all voters nationwide, in addition to statewide and local elections across the country,” said Amanda Bosquez, a Washington-based spokeswoman for NALEO. “Latinos were predicted to be the deciding factor this November in nine key states, which carried 101 Electoral College votes of the 270 needed for either President Obama or Governor Romney to win this year.”
Barack Obama’s popularity with Latinos was key to the president’s re-election. Obama took 71 percent of the Latino vote to Mitt Romney’s 27 percent, according to a November post-election Pew Report. Obama’s share among Hispanic voters is the highest seen by a Democratic candidate since 1996, when President Bill Clinton won 72 percent of the votes from that group.
Organizations such as NALEO and Vote Latino have recognized the growing influence Hispanic voters have at the polls, and continue to make the push to get people from the Hispanic community registered to vote, so they can have a voice when it comes to determining issues such as immigration or steering the economy back on track.
Groups such as Voto Latino are trying to mobilize the Latino vote in the United States. The electorate for American Latinos has grown slowly but steadily to 10 percent in 2012./Video Courtesy Voto Latino
“Voting does not just send a candidate to Washington, the state legislature or city hall; it speaks to the issues most pressing in your life, such as the economy, education, and healthcare,” Bosquez said. “In order to secure funding for schools, to create new jobs and safer streets, we must cast our ballot in every election. When you are informed, empowered, and inspired to take part in an election, you can bring change to your community.”
Rosa hopes the number of applications he’s seeing at CHCI is already reflecting that. He feels the more involved Latinos are in the process, the better things will be.
“The future and success of the Hispanic community will determine the future and success of this country,” he said.
The key to developing those leaders and future public officials, Bosquez said, is knowing who they are and where they are coming from.
“Understand your district and the people you are trying to represent – go out and talk to them, and create your support network,” she said. “This will help you understand how to service your constituents, find leadership opportunities and develop your message. Additionally, you will need to learn to set realistic goals for your first term and navigate the institution you wish to be a part of, manage staffing if you have any and work with colleagues and the media. Finally, understand from where you can get funding and how to best use that funding to further your campaign.“