The U.S. electorate is undergoing a seismic shift that is playing itself out over the course of decades. As the American Immigration Council describes in a new report, “New Americans”—immigrants who are naturalized U.S. citizens, as well as the native-born children of immigrants—comprise a growing share of voters in the United States. The same is true of the larger Latino and Asian communities to which most New Americans belong. Given that the predominantly white, native-born Americans who make up the massive “baby boom” generation are already starting to reach the age of 65, this trend will undoubtedly continue for many years to come. Politically, this means that more and more candidates for public office will have to be responsive to the needs and interests of New American, Latino, and Asian voters if they hope to win elections. Race-baiting and immigrant-bashing will not play well to voters who are immigrants, children of immigrants, or grandchildren of immigrants.
Here are some highlights of the report:
- There were 18.1 million New Americans registered to vote in 2012, totaling 11.8 percent of all registered voters. This amounts to an increase of 10.6 million (or 143.1 percent) since 1996.
- New Americans comprise just under one-third of registered voters in California—the highest share in the nation. Next in line is New York, with nearly one-quarter of registered voters being New Americans. In Nevada, New Jersey, and Florida, New Americans make up about one-fifth of all registered voters.
- Between 1996 and 2012, the ranks of New American registered voters increased most dramatically in Nevada: growing by 588.6 percent. Next are Georgia (472.8 percent), North Carolina (423.8 percent), and Arizona (397.6 percent).
- The New American share of registered voters increased by more than 15 percentage points in Nevada and California between 1996 and 2012. New York experienced an 11 percentage point increase, and both Florida and Arizona registered an increase of nearly 10 percentage points.
- As of 2012, 13.7 million Latinos accounted for 8.9 percent of all registered voters. Between 1996 and 2012, the number of Latino registered voters increased by 7.1 million (an increase of 108.4 percent).
- Latinos comprise more than one-third of registered voters in New Mexico, and nearly a quarter in Texas and California. In Arizona and Florida, Latinos account for just under one-fifth of registered voters.
- The Latino share of registered voters grew by roughly 11 percentage points in California and Nevada between 1996 and 2012. In Florida there was an increase of 8.2 percentage points, followed by Arizona (5.9 percentage points).
Asians and Pacific Islanders (APIs)
- As of 2012, 4.8 million APIs accounted for 3.2 percent of all registered voters. Between 1996 and 2012, the number of API registered voters increased by 2.7 million (an increase of 125.5 percent).
- APIs account for nearly one-half of all registered voters in Hawaii, and more than one out of ten in California.
- The greatest increase in the API share of registered voters between 1996 and 2012 occurred in Nevada (5.5 percentage points). Close behind were California (4.4 percentage points) and New Jersey (4.1 percentage points).
New Americans, Latinos, and APIs are the fastest growing segments of the U.S. electorate. In the coming years, politicians who alienate these voters will find it increasingly difficult to win national and many state and local elections—especially in close races. While elections cannot always be predicted with accuracy, one thing is certain about the evolution of the U.S. electorate: the number of eligible, voting-age New Americans, Latinos, and Asians is rising fast, and will continue to rise for quite some time. This is a long-term trend which shows no signs of abating.
FILED UNDER: Election 2014, featured, New Americans, Voting