By Francisco Alvarado
Florida Center for Investigative Reporting
As Florida lawmakers convene for a special session to redraw eight congressional districts in the state, a new study by the Pew Research Center finds that Republicans are still losing ground to Democrats among Hispanic voters. According to Pew researchers, the share of Cuban-American voters — most of whom traditionally register as Republicans — is dwindling as the number of Puerto Rican voters and Hispanic voters of other ancestry (such as Mexico and South America) continues to rise. Overall, 1.7 million Hispanics were registered to vote in Florida as of October 2014, according to the state’s Division of Elections.
According to the Pew study:
In 2013, Cubans made up a smaller share (31 percent) of Hispanic eligible voters – adult U.S. citizens – in Florida than they did in 1990 (46 percent). Meanwhile, over the same period, Puerto Ricans made up a larger share of the state’s Hispanic eligible voters, rising from 25 percent to 29 percent. These changes have been driven by the outmigration of Puerto Ricans from the island to central Florida and the movement of Puerto Rican-origin Hispanics in the northeast U.S. to central Florida. The share of Hispanic eligible voters of other ancestry (such as Mexico and South America) has also increased, from 29 percent then to 40 percent today.
On the other, Cuban Americans and their politics are also changing. This group increasingly leans toward the Democratic Party as more are born in the U.S. In addition, due to an influx of Cuban immigrants since 1990, a sizable majority of Cuban Americans today say they have at least some common values with people living in Cuba.
As a result, the Democratic Party is seeing its Hispanic numbers increase while voter registrations for the Republican Party are stagnating:
Among all Floridians, registered Democrats outnumbered Republicans in 2014. This is due in part to Hispanics, who accounted for 72 percent of growth in the number of registered Democrats between 2006 and 2014. During this time, the number of Hispanic registered voters increased by 56 percent, while the number of Hispanics identifying as Democrats or having no party affiliation each increased by about 80 percent. The number of Hispanic Republican registered voters has grown too – but much more slowly (just 14 percent). As a result, among Hispanic registered voters in 2014, 662,000 were registered as Democrats, 575,000 indicated no party affiliation and 471,000 were registered as Republicans. (It’s worth noting that not all registered voters cast a ballot, and voter turnout has a large impact in swing states like Florida.)
However, in Miami-Dade County – home to 46 percent of the nation’s Cuban-American population – Republicans still outnumber Democrats among Hispanic registered voters. In 2014, there were 265,000 Republicans and 218,000 Democrats. But even in this Cuban stronghold, statewide trends hold true. Among Hispanic registered voters between 2006 and 2014, the number of Democrats increased 66 percent while the number of Republican registered voters was nearly flat.
In Florida’s two other counties with large Latino populations – Broward (north of Miami) and Orange (Orlando) – Latino registered voters have leaned more Democratic than the state, but the trend toward more registering as Democrats or professing no party identification applies there as well.
Considering Florida’s status as a battleground state in presidential elections, Hispanic voters could propel the Democrats to victory again in 2016. In 2008 and 2012, President Barack Obama narrowly won Florida.