NOVEMBER 2002

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The Shifty Latino Vote
From Hoy
October 8, 2002

By Mariana Reyes Anglero

During the 2001 municipal elections, 47 percent of Hispanic New Yorkers voted for the Republican Michael Bloomberg. The election was unprecedented in a city where the majority of Hispanics are registered Democrats.

According to the study "The Latino Electorate," prepared by the Pew Hispanic Center in Washington D.C., the Hispanic electorate is emerging as a unique presence in the country’s political panorama. Center director Roberto Suro said that the study’s findings demonstrate "political party ambivalence" on the part of Hispanics.

Lorraine Cortés, president of the Hispanic Federation, debated this conclusion, saying that Hispanic voting tendencies do not demonstrate ambivalence, but instead show that Hispanics "support those candidates that involve themselves in issues that affect their communities."

The heterogeneity of Hispanic political criteria is a challenge for politicians who try to win the Hispanic vote. New York Governor George Pataki, a Republican, is wrapping up an intense campaign to gain the Hispanic vote, and has already gained the backing of Dennis Rivera, leader of the traditionally Democratic union 1199.

Mike McKeon, spokesperson for the Pataki campaign, said that "the Latino voters know Governor Pataki and they trust him. We are sure that Hispanic voters know that Governor Pataki respects them."

According to Suro, "When there are fierce party divides in the country, Latinos aren’t ideologically compromised to support any one party." According to the study by Suro’s organization, 49 percent of Hispanic voters are registered Democrats, 20 percent are registered Republicans, and 19 percent are independent.

The national study also indicates that more than 40 percent of Hispanics feel that there is very little or no difference between the Democratic and Republican parties. Hispanics constitute 10 percent of the country’s population and make up five percent of U.S. voters.

The study revealed that the total number of Hispanic voters is much lower than the number of Hispanics in the country due to various factors: a large part of the Hispanic population is made up of young people who are not yet old enough to vote, many Hispanics aren’t U.S. citizens and few of the Latinos that are able to vote have registered.

State Assemblyman José Rivera–who is also president of the Bronx Democratic part, said "We cannot forget that the majority of Hispanics are Democrats because the party platform is very different from the Republican platform." Rivera pointed out that the power of the Latino vote has obliged candidates from both parties to focus on the issues that are most important to the community.

"Hispanic voters are becoming more and more immersed in the electoral process, and are crucial to elections," said candidate for New York Governor Carl McCall. "I am paying close attention to the issues that affect the Hispanic community, such as education, housing and health care," added the Democrat.

According to the Pew Hispanic Center, Hispanic political preferences cannot be categorized in the same way as the African American or white vote, because Hispanics break with the classic guiding reasons that liberals or conservatives support one party or the other.

Professor Ángel López, from the Department of Latin American and Puerto Rican Studies at Hunter College, replied, "Many people presume that Latinos are a conglomerated mass. This is not necessarily true, and studies have shown that this is a myth that many Latin Americans have come to believe."

Translated from Spanish by Jonathan Charnay


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