When Barack Obama won the presidential election last week over John McCain, he did so with substantial help from Hispanic voters in four critical swing states. Nationwide, Hispanics supported Obama by better then two-to-one, Edison-Mitofsky exit polls showed, helping boost him to easy victories in such major electoral-count states as California, New York and Illinois.
The exit polls of some 17,000 voters broke down the national pro-Obama support (in percentages):
— Blacks: 96-4.
— Hispanics: 67-32
— Whites: 43-55.
At least 10 million Latinos voted, surmises Janet Murguia, president of the National Council of La Raza. NCLR was part of the coalition effort by Hispanic organizations to boost voter registrations by more than a million. Preliminary figures show Latino voters made up nine percent of the total national electorate, or just over 10 million.
The oft-mentioned swing state scenario — involving Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Florida, all with sizeable Hispanic population — proved true. The policy analysis group NDN reported the day after the election that Obama’s victory margins in those four states were attributable to the Latino vote.
Obama’s level of support from Hispanics comes as the second major voting-pattern shift in as many elections. In 2004, attention was drawn to the 40-percent-or-more level of support President Bush received in his 2004 campaign against Massachusetts Senator John Kerry. The swing back to better than 2-to-1 in favor of Obama reflects a return to the mostly historical voting pattern.
In early September, pollster Sergio Bendixen revealed at the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute public-policy conference Latinos already strongly favoring Obama in states where the election would hinge. Only Florida was in a virtual tie between the Democrat and Republican candidates. Huge Democratic voter registration and turnout efforts followed, along with unprecedented levels of funding for campaign advertising.
On election night, Florida and Virginia were projected even when Ohio swung for Obama. As polls closed in New Mexico and Colorado networks held off calling the race until California and other Pacific state tallies started coming in.
Elections analyst and former director of the Southwest Voter Registration Education Project Andrew Hernnndez had told Hispanic Link News Service a week before the election that he envisioned Latinos getting due credit for their role in Obama’s triumph only if the Western states’ contribution was adequately acknowledged by the media. “It’s a Latino narrative,” he maintained, if New Mexico, Colorado and Nevada put him over the top. “That, of course,” he suggested, “can’t happen until the sun rises over San Francisco Bay.”
The day following the election, most pollsters and analysts were reporting that young voters and “minorities,” alluding to Latinos as well as blacks, putting Obama over the top. And the sun was reported rising over Golden Gate Bridge.
(Jose de la Isla writes weekly commentaries for Hispanic Link News Service. Email him at email@example.com.)