Can Democratic Candidate Andrew Gillum Win the Florida Gubernatorial Election?

September 24, 2018

A New Report from the Center for Latin American, Caribbean and Latino Studies at The Graduate Center, CUNY Assesses the Likelihood

Media Contacts:    
Tanya Domi, 212-827-7283,
A New Report from the Center for Latin American, Caribbean and Latino Studies at The Graduate Center, CUNY Assesses the Likelihood
NEW YORK, September 24, 2018—The Graduate Center of The City University of New York’s Center for Latin American, Caribbean and Latino Studies (CLACLS) has released a report on the feasibility of Florida gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum winning in the general election. Gillum is the first African-American to be nominated by a major party for the state’s top executive office. Among the keys findings, the report shows that if Democratic constituencies register by the rapidly approaching October 9 deadline and turn out to vote at higher rates than in November 2016 Gillum has a realistic chance of making history.
“The Florida governor’s race encapsulates precisely the dilemma alluded to by President Obama when he said the biggest threat to our democracy is ‘apathy’ among voters,” said the report’s author Laird W. Bergad, director of CLACLS and a distinguished professor at Lehman College and The Graduate Center. “African Americans, Latinos, and younger voters are the groups that heavily support Democratic candidates, so they are critical to Andrew Gillum’s quest to make history by becoming Florida’s first African-American governor. But they also have had significantly lower voter-registration and turnout rates than older white Floridians. This report explains how and why Mr. Gillum will make history if these groups register and vote in the general election.”
The report, titled “The Politics of Race and the Florida Gubernatorial Election of November 2018,” shows that voting rates among Democratic constituencies were the lowest in Florida during the November 2016 presidential election, and that had clear consequences for the election’s outcome. Among African-Americans, only 51 percent of eligible voters went to the polls; 54 percent of Latinos; 40 percent of Asians, and 37 percent of voters of all races between 18 and 24 years of age. These sectors of the electorate voted heavily for the Democratic candidate in 2016. This compares to a voting rate of 64 percent for non-Hispanic whites in 2016, who overwhelmingly voted Republican. 
The data suggest that young voters could play a particularly key role in the 2018 election. Only 37 percent of eligible voters ages 18 to 24 cast ballots in the last election compared to 70 percent of eligible voters ages 65 or older. Moreover, younger voters supported the Democratic candidate by a margin of 63 percent to 27 percent.

The report provides an accurate statistical profile of the registered electorate using the latest official voter registration data by race and party in Florida as of July 30, 2018. It shows voter participation and voting rates by race and age, which are critical to the outcome of this election based on the U.S. Census Bureau’s data on the presidential election of 2016 and the November 2014 midterm election.
Other key findings:

  • Andrew Gillum is using an innovative strategy to win the election. Recognizing that white conservatives and those in largely rural regions of the state are going to vote for his Republican opponent, Ron DeSantis, irrespective of anything he does, Gillum has decided to focus his efforts on mobilizing traditional Democratic voters: progressive, non-Hispanic whites; African-Americans; Hispanics; and young people. Unfortunately, these cohorts of the voting population have had comparatively lower voter registration and participation rates than white conservative older voters who won the state for the current president in 2016.
  • A critical factor in Florida and elsewhere is registration rates. Nearly 71 percent of the state’s non-Hispanic whites were registered to vote in 2016 compared to 55 percent of African-Americans, 62 percent of Hispanics and only 50.4 percent of the Asian population. Thus, raising the registration rate among large swaths of the African-American and Hispanic populations will in all likelihood translate into higher voting rates among these critical sectors of Democratic support. If this occurs, Mr. Gillum has a realistic possibility of winning the election.
  • Had the voting rate been higher among Democratic constituencies, the result of the Florida presidential election 2016 would have been different. Mr. Gillum’s strategy is precisely to mobilize these potential Democratic voters while seeking to make history by becoming Florida’s first African-American governor. Nearly 64 percent of eligible non-Hispanic white voters went to the polls in 2016, and they supported the Republican candidate over the Democratic candidate by a margin of 64 percent to 32 percent, respectively. By contrast, only 50.5 percent of Florida’s African-Americans voted, but they supported the Democratic over the Republican candidate by a margin of 84 percent to 8 percent, according to exit polls. Finally, 54 percent of eligible Florida Latinos went to the polls in November 2016 and voted for the Democratic over the Republican candidate by a margin of 64 percent to 32 percent. 
  • Another factor analyzed is the age structure of the voting population. A Gillum victory is possible if younger Floridians go to the polls in greater numbers in November 2018. In 2016, voters between 18 and 24 years of age of all races supported the Democratic candidate by a margin of 63 percent to 27 percent. They had, however, the lowest voter participation rates in the state. Only 37 percent of eligible voters in this age cohort voted compared with 70 percent of voters 65 years of age and older. 

Contact Tanya Domi, Director of Media Relations for a PDF of the report at
About The Center for Latin American, Caribbean and Latino Studies
The core mission of CLACLS is to actively support and advance the study of Latin America, the Caribbean, and Latinos in the U.S. in the doctoral programs of The Graduate Center, and to provide opportunities for Latino students at the Ph.D. level. CLACLS’s flagship program is the Latino Data Project, established in 2003 by Laird W. Bergad founding and current CLACLS director.  Bergad is a distinguished professor in the Department of Latin American, Puerto Rican, and Latino Studies at Lehman College and with the Ph.D. Program in History at The Graduate Center. The Latino Data Project conducts detailed quantitative research on the Latino population of the United States and New York City metropolitan region, analyzing raw data files produced by the U.S. Census Bureau and other government agencies.
About The Graduate Center, CUNY
The Graduate Center of The City University of New York (CUNY) is a leader in public graduate education devoted to enhancing the public good through pioneering research, serious learning, and reasoned debate. The Graduate Center offers ambitious students more than 40 doctoral and master’s programs of the highest caliber, taught by top faculty from throughout CUNY — the nation’s largest public urban university. Through its nearly 40 centers, institutes, and initiatives, including its Advanced Science Research Center (ASRC), The Graduate Center influences public policy and discourse and shapes innovation. The Graduate Center’s extensive public programs make it a home for culture and conversation.