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In sum, Latino engagement in the civic and political life of the United States has been extensively measured, and the patterns found are relatively consistent. Latino engagement looks like that of other populations except that the rates are lower. Latinos have high levels of political efficacy the sense that they can have individual influence over government and generally trust government and civic institutions, so that lower levels of participation should not be interpreted as dissatisfaction with U.

Instead, as I discuss in the next section, the Latino-non-Latino participation gap results from institutional structures that lead to differential levels of mobilization and compositional differences between Latino and non-Latino populations.

Who Speaks for Hispanics?: Hispanic Interest Groups in Washington - Deirdre Martinez - كتب Google

The reasons for Latino civic and electoral participation and nonparticipation are for the most part not unique to Latino communities. Rather, many of the factors that shape Latino participation affect all U.

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These compositional characteristics, however, do not explain all participation differences. Institutional differences also play a role. One such institutional factor already mentioned is distinct—the VRA. After analyzing its influence on Latino participation, I turn to some more general institutional factors that shape the political behaviors of all contemporary electorates. Congress targeted these populations, and not all ethnic or linguistic minorities, on grounds that they had experienced multigenerational exclusion based on linguistic difference.

Congress extended to these populations the same coverage that blacks had received in —federal oversight of voter registration, voting procedures, and electoral rule changes—in areas with high concentrations of blacks and lower than average black voter turnout. The VRA extension added one specific protection for language minorities, bilingual election materials. Congress added to these targeted protections in when it mandated that jurisdictions had a responsibility to draw districts that would elect the candidate of a covered minority group's choice in areas where the size and concentration of the minority population allowed for drawing such a district.

The overall effect of VRA on Latino empowerment has been positive but perhaps not as positive as many think , yet these benefits have come at a cost. First, Congress failed to use the opportunity of the extension to examine why Latinos voted at lower rates than non-Hispanic whites. In other words, neither in nor in subsequent debates over VRA extension did Congress assess the unique features of Latino political history that shape Latino political behavior today, most notably the multiple generations of voter manipulation among eligible Hispanic voters.

Second, by creating opportunities for Latino officeholding, in some cases ahead of the community mobilization traditionally necessary to elect people to office, the VRA shifted the focus of weak community and civic organizations away from mass organization and toward electing Latinos to office. This is an important goal. It may have, however, short-circuited the process of organizational development in Latino communities just as group numbers were reaching levels of critical mass sufficient for political mobilization.

Finally, because the VRA linked the needs of all Latinos in a blanket extension to the Spanish-heritage population, it may have eventually undercut legislative or judicial support for continued Latino VRA coverage the VRA is next up for renewal in To the extent that Congress examined political history to justify VRA extension to Latinos, it looked primarily to the Mexican American experience and to a lesser degree to that of Puerto Ricans.

Other Latinos, including those yet to establish a critical mass through immigration, were brought into coverage, despite an explicit decision by Congress not to extend VRA coverage to all ethnic or linguistic minorities.

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Congress or the courts may eliminate VRA coverage for all Latinos in the future, including coverage of descendants of Mexican Americans and Puerto Ricans who faced sustained electoral manipulation and exclusion, if the perception arises that the primary beneficiaries are post immigrants and their children. The extension of VRA coverage to Latinos in jumpstarted a new incentive structure for new institutions in American politics to reach out to Latinos. Prior to , Hispanic political participation was characterized by the absence of institutional incentives to participate and the failure to adapt institutions that have successfully spurred mobilization among other populations.

The Latino population includes a disproportionate share of individuals who need incentives to vote and to participate in other forms of civic activity, such as new immigrants, Hispanics who were socialized politically during periods when their participation was discouraged by law or practice, and descendants of those never socialized into U.

The experience of Latinos is not unique in U. What differs today is that political and civic institutions that mobilized new participants in the past have lost their ability to fill this role in American democracy. Most notable among these are political parties which, from the s on, served as the engine of mass political participation in the United States.

This role steadily declined throughout the 20th century as parties shifted their focus to fundraising, candidate recruitment, and technical support for candidates. Contemporary parties do little to mobilize new voters Wattenberg, Instead, they have become increasingly skilled at identifying voters who turn out regularly.

Prior to an election, they inform regular voters, but reach out to less regular voters only in the most competitive of races. Party skill at drawing electoral districts, single-member plurality electoral systems, and relatively low turnout among new voters reduces the number of these competitive races. The Latino community is disadvantaged by such strategies because it has a higher share of registered voters who do not go to the polls and a higher share of adult citizens who are not registered.

This selective outreach is reinforced by candidates and campaigns. To pay for these air wars, candidates spend a higher share of their time fundraising and less time meeting citizens. Personal outreach, whether by candidates or their supporters, has been shown to spur Latino turnout, even when controlling for the effects of age, education, and income Shaw et al.

Parties are certainly not the only civic institution that could take a role in mobilization. Unions have traditionally filled this role for many immigrants, as have ethnic civic organizations. But like parties, unions have also declined as mass organizations. Their decline, however, slowed somewhat in the s. Several unions in New York and Los Angeles can attribute their revitalization to outreach to Latinos and other immigrants.

Based on their experiences, the American Federation of Labor has begun to invest in a campaign to reach out to Latinos and other immigrants and to recast trade unionism's traditional animosity toward expansive immigration policies. Civic organizations can also fill gaps left by the decline in party-based mobilization. The NALEO has experimented over the past four years with targeted mobilization in high- and medium-concentration Latino areas and among the newly naturalized.


Although they demonstrate a positive impact on turnout, their efforts are very expensive and are difficult to fund with philanthropic support because of risks that their efforts can be perceived as partisan. Electoral mobilization methodologies are poorly developed, hence their effectiveness is often limited Green and Gerber, State and local electoral laws also shape the opportunity for Latino electoral engagement. Reform states structured their electoral laws to reduce the power of organized interests and political parties.

In California, for example, campaigns for all but state-level and national races are nonpartisan Segura and Woods, The absence of this cue makes voting more confusing and difficult, dampening participation among adult citizens with low levels of political socialization. These reform states also practice various forms of direct democracy, such as the initiative, referendum, and recall.

These direct democracy tools were passed with the notion that they would decentralize the democracy, but they confuse new participants, increase the information cost of participating, and also create the opportunity for majorities to limit the political gains of electoral minorities.


Again, they serve to dampen Latino participation relative to Anglo participation. More recently, many reform states have implemented term limits.

Initially, term limits served as a boon to Latino officeholding, as they sped the transition from Anglo to Latino officeholders in districts where Latino population concentration rose. After the initial positive impact on Latino electability, however, term limits slowed the development of Latino electoral leadership.

Newly elected Latinos did not have the opportunity to develop legislative and leadership skills that many of their Anglo and black predecessors had. Almost as soon as they are elected, these officeholders have to begin to plan their move to the next level of elective office. One reason that there are so few Latinos competing for statewide or national office is that legislatures that traditionally served as training grounds for executive office cannot fill this role when legislators are termed out after six or eight years.

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Unlike other Latino migrants, Puerto Ricans become immediately eligible to register to vote in the United States upon migration and to vote within one month of arrival. Despite these relatively equal opportunities to participate politically in the United States or in Puerto Rico, turnout in Puerto Rican elections is approximately twice as high as Puerto Rican participation in mainland elections.

The explanation for this difference is not entirely institutional; Puerto Rican elections involve contests between parties that are organized around the central question in island politics—status. But the structure of elections also differs, most notably in the near universal voter registration in Puerto Rico, the close competition between the two leading parties, the relative infrequency of elections and smaller number of races being contested, and the clear focus on party affiliation and party loyalty among all candidates.

Each of these characteristics makes voting easier in Puerto Rico and increases turnout. At over 80 percent, Puerto Rico boasts a very high turnout among democracies.

A second part of the explanation for the gaps between Latinos and non-Hispanic whites is demographic and is not contested among scholars of Latino politics de la Garza, Because the best data focus on voting, I use them to elaborate this point, but similar patterns exist for other forms of participation. Table presents CPS estimates of voter turnout in the election. Two things are evident from these tabulations. First, similar patterns appear for Latinos, non-Hispanic whites, and non-Hispanic blacks. Younger people vote at lower rates than do older people.

Individuals with lower incomes vote at lower rates than people with higher incomes. And people with lower levels of formal education vote at lower rates than people with higher levels of education.

Who Speaks for Hispanics?: Hispanic Interest Groups in Washington

The gap in turnout between the youngest, lowest education, and lowest family income categories and the highest is wider than the gap between Latinos and non-Latinos. Latinos do vote at lower rates than whites in most categories, but these gaps are narrower than across the age, education, and income categories. Second, the adult citizen Latino population includes higher shares of young individuals, those with lower incomes, and those with less formal education.

More than 30 percent of Hispanic adult citizens, for example, have less than a high school education. Just 12 percent of non-Hispanic white adult citizens have less than a high school education. These differences in composition are largely responsible for Hispanic—non-Hispanic participation gaps.

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A final demographic factor that dampens Latino participation relative to Anglo participation is high rates of non-U. Since the passage of the VRA, the Latino electorate increased by percentage points see Table Eligible noncitizens who do not vote increased slightly less percent. The number of adult non-U. Stated differently, each new Latino voter was matched by one nonvoter in this same period and nearly two adult non-U. Thus, the share of Latino nonparticipants in electoral politics or in other forms of civic engagement is much higher than for either blacks or whites, and these nonparticipants are overwhelmingly non-U.

These nonparticipants not only mute the political voice of Latinos, but also they make predictions about the future the final task of this chapter more uncertain. Citizens, — When these demographic factors are accounted for in multivariate analyses, a gap remains between Latino and non-Hispanic white participation Bass and Casper, ; Calvo and Rosenstone, ; DeSipio, a ; Wolfinger and Rosenstone, Several hypotheses have been offered to explain the remaining gap and generally focus on institutional structures, but empirical data are insufficient to fully test them.

The most actively debated among these is a hypothesis that the concentration of Latino adults in areas of very low electoral competition reduces mobilization incentives for candidates and other political institutions Barreto, Segura, and Woods, ; de la Garza and DeSipio, ; de la Garza, Menchaca, and DeSipio, ; Leighley, Other explanations relate to the dampening effect on Latino participation of a high share of naturalized citizens in the adult citizen population, because of evidence of lower participation among the naturalized than the U.