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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Florida’s Hispanic Voters Could be Key in November

Regardless of what happens concerning Florida’s delegation to the Democratic convention, Florida is likely to be a key swing state in the general election. Florida ranks fourth among the states in electoral college votes, and Democrats have shown they are highly competitive there. To better understand Florida’s demographics Warren Bull’s BBC News article “Florida’s Hispanics weigh their vote” is a good place to begin. Bull notes:

About 20% of the Sunshine State’s population is Hispanic (rising to more than 60% in Miami Dade County) and it has long played an influential and sometimes decisive role in American politics…George W Bush would never have become the 43rd US president without the backing of more than half of Florida’s Latino voters.

Bull’s article also has a sidebar chart on Florida demographics with the following Census factoids:

Population: 18m
White, not Hispanic: 61.3%
Hispanic: 20.2%
Black: 15.8%
Home ownership rate: 70.1%
Median household income 2004: $40,900
US median: $44,334

Bull quotes Florida political analyst Dr. Paul Pozo on the diversity of Florida’s Hispanic community and its regional strongholds:

In the central part of Florida, the majority of the Latins are Puerto Rican. Some Central Americans are there also, and Mexicans in the north of Florida. South of Florida is basically the Cuban-American community.

Bull’s article doesn’t have the percentages for each Hispanic subgroup. But Adam C. Smith’s 2004 article in the St. Petersburg Times, “Parties court the ultimate swing vote: Florida’s Hispanics,” has a sidebar chart that indicates 31.1 percent of Florida Hispanics are Cuban, 18 percent Puerto Rican, 13.6 Mexican and 37.4 “other Hispanic and Latino.”
Adds Smith:

Hispanics account for about 12 percent of Florida’s electorate. The share made up of faithfully Republican Cuban-Americans has dropped from at least 80 percent a decade ago to 60 percent today. In 2000, Bush won 80 percent of the Cuban vote in Florida, while Gore won 60 percent of the non-Cuban Hispanic vote.

Victor Manuel Ramos notes in his Orlando Sentinel article, published by HispanicBusiness.com:

There are more than 1.1 million Hispanic voters statewide, including 207,000 in Central Florida. And they are the only major voter group that has grown — by 8,300 — since 2006. Statewide, a majority are Republicans.
By contrast, 42 percent of Central Florida’s Hispanics are registered Democrats, compared with 22 percent Republicans. That party alignment may explain why candidates haven’t invested much here.

Pozo has this to say about the ideologial breakdown:

The difference is in ideology. The Cuban-American community is more conservative and likes the Republican Party more than the Democrats. The Hispanic people in Central Florida are more inclined to the Democratic Party, and of course they feel different in so far as foreign relations.

Bull discusses the play of key issues of concern to Florida Hispanics, including: immigration; a high rate of foreclosures; health care reform; high drop-out rates; a depressed construction industry and the economy in general. Bull’s article links to a BBC demographic profile of Florida, which notes that seniors are 18 percent of the state population — the highest percentage in the nation.
Winning votes of Florida’s complex Hispanic demographic is a tricky challenge for Democrats. But with 27 electoral votes at stake, it’s not one Dems can afford to overlook.

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