Who Are Hispanic Americans, and How Will They Vote?Ray Suarez
RAY SUAREZ is Senior Correspondent for PBS NewsHour.
Protesting Arizona's controversial immigration law, May 1, 2010 (Reuters / Jonathan Ernst)
In June, as the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on Arizona's controversial immigration law and the Obama administration announced a significant change in U.S. deportation policies, the country's roughly 50 million Latino residents were once again transformed from a diverse collection of individuals into an ethnic bloc and then into a political issue in the 2012 campaign season. It was hardly the first time, and it will certainly not be the last, as the U.S. government and American society and political culture struggle to make sense of the country's rapidly shifting demographics.
By now, the main questions have become familiar. How many Latino voters are there? What do they care about? Are they conservative or liberal? Republicans or Democrats? Will Candidate X figure out how to appeal to them? Will they vote in November? If they overperform in the census but underperform at the polls, does it matter that Latino populations seem to be growing quickly in hotly contested swing states?
What has also become familiar is the lack of good answers to these questions, notwithstanding the many commentators, most of them not Latino, who confidently hold forth on the subject on talk radio and cable news, even though they tend to have rather modest firsthand knowledge of the country's Latino communities and, worse yet, rarely offer any hard data to ground their punditry in reality.
Latinos in the New Millennium represents a potential antidote to this vapid discourse and a data-rich corrective to the stereotypes that too often define Hispanics in the United States. Aptly describing the book as an almanac, its authors, a group of academic experts, have collected and synthesized a massive quantity of data on the political and personal sentiments of Latinos across all lines of national origin, citizenship and immigration status, and income and educational levels. Their findings simultaneously clarify and complicate the reductive portrait of Latinos that frames discussions of their social and political relevance.