By Hannah Smithson
The Hispanic population of the US is one of the largest minorities in the country and could determine the outcome of the 2012 US election.
Since they passed a significant demographic milestone of 50 million people, or 16.3% of the entire American population, Latinos have become a more and more significant minority group whose votes the candidates are keen to win.
Belinda Reyes, professor of Latin Studies at San Francisco State University told the BBC, “When the white vote is very divided, other ethnic groups become key to deciding the outcome. This election will probably be defined by who secures a few votes in the middle – the votes of those people who have still not decided who to vote for.”
According to the 2010 US Census Bureau data, between 2000 and 2010, the Latino population in the US increased by 43%, four times the growth of the overall population. This means that this minority of voters is becoming less of a minority and more important for candidates to get on side with, many of which reside in the swing states.
With two days left to Election Day, President Obama has decided to target Hispanic voters in key states that traditionally have voted democrat in the past. In a recent 48-hour campaign effort, he made a tour to the basement of the Bellagio hotel in swing state Nevada’s Las Vegas.
He was not there to gamble on the casino floor but headed straight to the workers cafeteria to take a chance on the 8,000 people working beneath the glittering floors.
He specifically targeted Democratic union members and Hispanics who fill the service-trade ranks, and who have boosted his party’s fortunes in Nevada in recent elections.
“Don’t wait to vote. You have got to go and cash in your chips now,” Obama told the cheering crowd of cooks, cleaners, and card dealers.
Every month 50,000 young Latinos turn 18. Since the last presidential election in 2008, there are 2,400,000 eligible first time voters. The Hispanic youth of the US is therefore also a growing population of eligible voters to be considered.
Despite Republicans not having the best record with the Latino vote, Romney has not given up on Hispanic voters. In fact, he, too, has targeted them across the country.
He has dispatched his Spanish-speaking son, Craig, to campaign on his behalf in Florida, Colorado, and Nevada and has ditched his primary campaign immigration rhetoric about encouraging “self-deportation”.
An Oct. 29 poll by Latino Decisions, which tracks the Hispanic vote, found that President Obama had the support of 73 percent of all Latino registered voters nationally, compared with 21 percent for Republican nominee Mitt Romney.
The 52-point gap matched the largest difference in Latino Decisions surveys this year.