Elections, at the simplest level, are won by forming a larger coalition than any other party. But America’s coalitions are changing over time. Some of these changes are by choice, but other changes are driven by demographic changes.
One of those changes is the rise of Hispanic voters. They will probably play a more important role than ever before in determining whether the coalition of the Democratic Party or the Republican Party is greater this year.
While we don’t know the exact size of the Hispanic electorate, we do know that Hispanic voters (11%) turned out more voters in 2020 than in any previous national election, according to the US Census Bureau.
We also know that Hispanic voters made up a larger share of voters in the 2018 midterms (at 9%) than in any previous term. The 2018 midterms were also notable, with Hispanics making up the same percentage of voters as in previous presidential elections. If that’s the case this year, 2022 will be the most Hispanic voter turnout for the midterm elections.
For a historical comparison, Hispanics made up only 5% of the electorate in mid-2002 (or about half of their percentage in 2018).
The high turnout in the last midterm was driven not only by the fact that Hispanics make up a larger share of American adults, but also by the fact that a larger share of them turned out to vote.
In 2018 there was a record 40% of the voting age population. That was a 50% increase from 2014, which was double what was seen among white non-Hispanic Americans.
Other data points to strong turnout nationally in 2022, so we should see strong Hispanic turnout in another year.
Of course, in the United States we don’t hold national elections. Elections are held state by state and district by district.
It’s at the state level where the power of the Hispanic vote can really be seen this year. Control of the US Senate, at this point, looks like it will come down to four races: Arizona, Georgia, Nevada and Pennsylvania. Democrats will likely need to win three of those states to retain control of the Senate.
The Hispanic share of the voting-age population in Georgia and Pennsylvania is lower than nationally. This should not be surprising because a disproportionate share of Hispanics live in states with large populations (such as California and Texas), which means that Hispanics are below the population average in most states.
In Arizona and Nevada, the ball game is completely different. In 2022 Hispanics made up 22% of Arizona voters and 18% of Nevada voters.
That means Hispanic voters will likely have a huge say in whichever party wins the Senate in this election. This is somewhat of a statistical anomaly. There are only nine states where the Hispanic share of the voting-age population is higher than the national average. It just so happens that two of those states are big battlegrounds this fall.
Hispanic voting power has been diluted in the race for control of the US House, however.
I looked at the 50 closest to the House races (as measured by BostThirtyEight) and analyzed the turnout of the Hispanic voting-age population. Only 12 of the 50 districts have a significantly higher share of Hispanics than the nation as a whole. The clear majority (64%) has a lower share of Hispanics than the national average.
House races in which Hispanics will have a significantly larger share than the rest of the nation won’t come as much of a surprise to those who follow politics. California (9th, 13th, 22nd, 27th and 45th), Colorado (8th), New Mexico (2nd), Nevada (1st and 4th) and Texas (15th, 28th and 34th) ) are there. In other words, they’re mostly in the Southwest, like states with large Hispanic populations that will have a huge voice in the Senate race.
A big question is whether either party will benefit greatly from a large Hispanic turnout. Support for Democrats is likely, as polls show Hispanics favoring Democrats in congressional races. The same survey shows, however, that the margin the Democrats are getting among Hispanics is not as large as it was four years ago.
If the actual results hold, and given the Republican Party’s advantage among white voters, the GOP’s overall coalition may outnumber the Democratic Party’s.
Of course, we won’t know that until all the votes are cast and counted.