New Report Details How Immigration Reform is Shaping Politics in the State & Opportunities and Challenges for Both Parties
The longer House Republicans delay a vote on immigration reform in Washington, the worse the long-term political consequences. Case in point: Arizona.
A new report, conducted by Latino Decisions and commissioned by America’s Voice, illustrates how the current immigration debate is influencing the state’s growing Latino electorate and how both parties have an opportunity to mobilize this key voting bloc. Although Hispanics represent a large swath of the electorate, their power has yet to be fully exercised at the ballot box. At the same time, their numbers are growing and voters express a close connection to the immigration debate. Investment from Democrats and Republicans can have a long-term effect on changing the political calculus in Arizona for years to come, but only if the parties embrace positive, pro-immigration reform actions.
On a press call/webinar today, polling experts, civic engagement leaders, Arizona Latino leaders and immigration advocates discussed this new report and assessed what the demographic change means for politics in the state of Arizona in the years to come.
According to Gabriel Sanchez, Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of New Mexico and Director of Research at Latino Decisions, “The future of Arizona politics will be driven by Latino population growth which we have making Arizona a majority-minority state in fifteen years. With Latinos in Arizona being an astonishing 20 years younger than non-Hispanic whites, this population growth among Latinos is due to the youthfulness of the Latino population, not external migration.”
He added, “Although over 40% of Latino voters in Arizona indicated they voted for Bush in 2004 and McCain in 2008, Arizona’s Hispanic voters have all but abandoned the Republican Party more recently as a result of the harsh stance on immigration policy.”
- Latinos comprise 30% of Arizona’s population, representing a significantly larger share than the national average of 17%. By 2050, Latinos are estimated to constitute 44% of the population, eclipsing the white, non-Hispanic proportion in the state.
- Over half of Arizona’s Latino population is under thirty years old, while over 40% of the state’s white population is age 50 or older.
- While turnout rates amongst Arizona Latinos have greatly improved since 2008 (by 37%), the majority of Arizona Latinos eligible to vote, 60%, did not cast a ballot in 2012, marking a twenty-two point turnout difference from their white counterparts in the state.
- Latino votes for Republican candidates in Arizona has dropped off significantly since the passage of SB 1070—from 44% respectively for President George Bush in 2004 and Senator John McCain in 2008 to 14% for Republican Governor Jan Brewer in 2010 and 20% for Republican Candidate Mitt Romney in 2012.
- 65% of Latino voters in Arizona have friends or family members that are undocumented.
- When asked about the current immigration debate, 38% of Arizona Latino voters indicated they would be more inclined to support future Republican candidates if the Party advanced comprehensive immigration reform including a pathway to citizenship. Arizona Latinos rate above the national average on this point, and display more willingness to vote for GOP candidates compared to Latinos in several states.
Randy Parraz, Co-Founder of Citizens for a Better Arizona, said, “The political system in Arizona has yet to feel the true power of the Latino vote. Now more than ever we need to invest in a multimillion dollar strategy that focuses exclusively on educating, registering and mobilizing hundreds of thousands of Latino voters in Arizona. Because the Latino vote has not reached its potential, many Latino families suffer when extreme politicians like Russell Pearce, Sheriff Arpaio and other TEA Party extremist drive the political agenda of the state. Fortunately we have the numbers to make a difference IF we make the investment now of time, money and people.”
“Arizona is the testing grounds for controversial policies but has also become a place that is capturing a historic movement and energy of young people, including Latino communities across the state. As a fifth generation Arizonan, I feel excited to see the Latino voice in Arizona at the cusp of being influential in the decision making process in 2014 and 2016,” said Petra Falcon, Executive Director of Promise Arizona.
“Our community understands the importance of making sure that their elected leaders act in our best interest on important issues like immigration reform,” said Raquel Teran, Arizona State Director of Mi Familia Vota. “And our effectiveness at increasing Latino voter participation will determine the political future of Latinos and our democracy.”
This Arizona report, falls on the heels of a separate report released this week on how Texas Latinos are changing the political make-up of the state and how both parties can improve their image amongst this growing electorate.
“House Republicans need to decide if they want to remain a viable national party, or evolve into a regional party,” said Lynn Tramonte, Deputy Director of America’s Voice. “The demographic writing is on the wall. Once ruby-red states are turning purple and then blue because of the Latino vote and the two parties’ divergent stances on the issue. It’s no coincidence that both of Arizona’s Republican senators voted for the reform bill the upper chamber passed in 2013. The question remains whether their colleagues in the House will get with the program. As this report makes clear, making the wrong decision will have long-term, profound effects.”