Voter Registration Rates, Not Turnout, Are Biggest Driver of Low Latino Voter Participation

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Media contact: Tanya Domi, 212-817-7283,,

Voter Registration Rates, Not Turnout, Are Biggest Driver of Low Latino Voter Participation

New Graduate Center, CUNY, study suggests need for more effective voter registration outreach to younger, less educated Latino electorate

NEW YORK, Dec. 15, 2018 – A new study from the Center for Latin American, Caribbean and Latino Studies (CLACS) at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York suggests that lack of voter registration, not Election Day turnout, is the biggest hindrance to Latinos having a more significant impact on election outcomes.
Analyzing voter data from the U.S. Census, researchers found that the number of Latinos who are eligible to vote tripled to more than 26.6 million between 1992 and 2016, but that the proportion actually registered to vote fell more than a point to just 57 percent during that same period, compared to 69 and 74 percent for blacks and non-Hispanic whites, respectively. The comparatively low registration rate means that although a high percentage of Latinos who are registered to vote do cast ballots (83 percent in 2016), their impact on election outcomes is not as significant as their electorate heft suggests is possible.
“The central challenge to increasing Latino voter participation is not improving get-out-the-vote efforts, it’s getting more of the Latino electorate registered to vote,” said study author Laird Bergad, a distinguished professor of Latin American and Caribbean history at the Graduate Center and at Lehman College.

Bergad’s analysis identified age, nativity and level of education as the three standout factors in whether Latinos were registered to vote. Roughly 61 percent of the Latino electorate is between 18 and 44 years old, but the two age groups (18–24 and 25–44 year olds) that comprise this segment also have the lowest rates of voter registration (46 and 56.5 percent, respectively) among all Latinos.
CLACLS Report Graph Figure 10
Latino citizens who were born outside of the U.S. also register at higher rates than those born in the U.S. But the factor most identifiable with higher rates of voter registration among Latinos is educational attainment. While this is an influential factor across all ethnic groups, it is particularly impactful among Latinos since, as a group, they are less likely to have college degrees than other groups. The data shows that 80 percent of Latinos with a bachelor’s degree are registered to vote, compared to 63 percent of those with high school diplomas and 42 percent of those with an educational level below the 9th grade.
The data teases out not only the need to do more aggressive voter registration among Latino communities, but also to be highly strategic about which groups are targeted and how they are engaged around policy issues that most impact their daily lives.
“A good deal of the policies being made will have inordinate effects on Latinos who are 18 to 44 years old and who are less educated,” Bergad said. “Those are exactly the groups that offer the greatest promise for increasing Latino voter registration and participation.This data suggests that voter registration efforts must intentionally target younger Latinos and those without college education if voter participation rates are to rise in the future.”
Media contact Tanya Domi, to arrange an interview of Professor Bergad, the report’s author.


About the Graduate Center, CUNY
The Graduate Center, CUNY, is the focal point for advanced teaching and research at The City University of New York (CUNY), the nation's largest urban public university. With over 35 doctoral and master’s programs of the highest caliber, the Graduate Center fosters pioneering research and scholarship in the arts and sciences and prepares students for careers in universities and the private, nonprofit, and government sectors. The Graduate Center’s commitment to research and scholarship for the public good is exemplified by its more than 30 centers, institutes, and initiatives, including its Advanced Science Research Center, a 200,000 square-foot facility in upper Manhattan, designed to promote collaboration among scientists in five areas of global research and innovation: nanoscience, photonics, structural biology, neuroscience, and environmental sciences.

The Graduate Center benefits from highly ambitious and diverse students and alumni — who in turn teach hundreds of thousands of undergraduates every year. Through its public programs, the Graduate Center enhances New York City’s intellectual and cultural life.

Submitted on: DEC 15, 2017

Category: Center for Latin American, Caribbean, and Latino Studies | Diversity | Press Room | Research Studies