Commentary

09/09/2014  by Nadine Ono

Latino Millennials are an expanding and influential voter demo

It’s no secret that Latinos represent a growing segment of California’s population and therefore its electorate. Last month, Univision released a survey showing Latinos comprise 28 percent of the state’s eligible voters and 24 percent of its registered voters. The poll also found that one in four Hispanic voters in California is between the ages of 18 and 34, making them card-carrying members of the Millennial generation.

That means Hispanic Millennials make up about seven percent of California’s voting population. It may seem like a small number, but a closer look at the data reveals this rapidly growing population is much more influential than many think.

“There are 800,000 Latinos reaching voting age every year [nationwide] and engaging them at an earlier age is becoming more and more important, so that a huge part of our country is not left out of the political process,” said Jessica Reeves, Vice President of Marketing and Partnerships at Voto Latino, a national non-partisan organization dedicated to empowering Latino millennials to vote. More than two-thirds of California’s Latino households are bilingual, which means the younger generation is assisting their elders in many ways. “A lot of Latino Millennials are marrying and starting families young, but they are also serving as sources of information for their parents,” Reeves said.

Mindy Romero, director of California Civic Engagement Project (CCEP) at the UC Davis Center for Regional Change agreed. “Generally speaking, the Latino population is a younger population, whether they’re eligible (voters) or actual voters.” The natural extension of this, Romero said, is that anyone running for any election almost anywhere in the state must focus on Latino outreach.

Last year, students from the Chicano/Latino Research Center at UC Santa Cruz conducted a study entitled, “Broadening the Electorate in Central California.” They found that face-to-face interaction, or canvassing, was very effective among Latinos of all ages, even millennials.

Romero points out that it is important to make sure the right people are making the personal contact. “For younger Latinos, does it matter who’s doing the contact? Does it have to be fellow youth, for instance? Does it have to be youth of the same color? The same background,” Romero asked, rattling off a list of questions many outreach coordinators must be asking all over the state.

“For youth, if they are contacted that’s one thing, that’s great, but if they are contacted by a fellow youth, a peer-to-peer contact, that makes a lot of difference,” Romero said.

In the digital age, there’s also another important way to reach young Latinos. “They’re the fastest adopters of new technology,” said Reeves. “I think that we also need to be engaging Latino Millennials on those platforms and in a way that is going to be relevant to them.”

That’s good news for the new website, Voter’s Edge, which is a collaborative effort between the League of Women Voters of California Education Fund and MapLight. Voter’s Edge makes information on all political races accessible and non-partisan. It includes information on ballot initiatives, local and statewide candidates and even some local measures, as well as infro from the LWVC Education Fund's Smart Voter guide.

For this cycle, the partnership with LWVC will also bring all of their information formally found on Smart Voter into the Voter's Edge fold. In short, it's a comprensive one-stop-shop for anyone who wants to educate themselves on the upcoming election.

This is critical and comes full circle back to Reeves' notion that the younger, more Americanized, technologically savvy and native English speaker Latino Millennials are the gateway for information to the older generations in their families.

Voter's Edge will offer a Spanish translated site, but there is no real translation for those older folks who are technologically illiterate. However, for a generation used to having information at their fingertips, this is a significant tool for informing what is coming more and more of a prized demographic for those working campaigns.

Categories: Democracy, Elections, Californians, Millennials, Government

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