PRINCETON, NJ -- Hispanics of all ages in the U.S. today are more than twice as likely to identify with or lean to the Democratic Party rather than the Republican Party. However, younger Hispanics are slightly more likely to be independent, and are more likely to identify with or lean toward the Republican Party, compared with older Hispanics. These patterns highlight the challenges the Republican Party faces in the years ahead as the Hispanic percentage of the potential electorate expands.
These data are based on an analysis of 7,901 Hispanic respondents interviewed in English or Spanish as part of Gallup Daily tracking between Jan. 3 and June 27, 2013.
The importance of the Hispanic vote to leaders of both parties is seen in the increasing number of Hispanics who will be in the voting-age population in the years ahead, as the current "bulge" of Hispanics under the age of 18 reaches adulthood. U.S. Census Bureau data show that 33.2% of Hispanics living in the U.S. are under the age of 18, compared with 19.7% of non-Hispanic whites. Calculations based on census data also show that between 2010 and 2015, the U.S. Hispanic population under the age of 25 is expected to grow by about 14%, while the non-Hispanic white population of the same age is expected to decrease by about 0.5%.
Young Hispanics More Likely to Initially Identify as Independent
More than half of U.S. Hispanics younger than 30 initially identify as political independents when asked which party they support.
This high percentage of independents among younger Hispanics might suggest some fluidity in party identification that would leave these voters susceptible to persuasion by both political parties. However, Hispanic independents who say they lean to one party or the other in response to a follow-up question break 20% to Democratic identification compared with 12% to the GOP. Thus, while the Republican Party is clearly not shut out among these younger Hispanics, it has a significantly lower standing than is true for the Democratic Party.
Young Hispanics Highly Supportive of the President
Although more than half of Hispanics aged 18 to 29 initially identify as independents, more than seven in 10 approve of the job Barack Obama is doing as president, the highest, by a small margin, across the four age groups. Though this could reflect a particularly positive view of Obama that will not necessarily apply to the Democratic nominee in the 2016 presidential election, it does underscore the potential challenge Republicans face in attempting to gain a higher percentage of the Hispanic vote in that election than the 27% Mitt Romney garnered in 2012.
Many broad factors will affect the political structure of the U.S. electorate in the future, including possible changes in the political orientation of baby boomers as they move into their senior years, as well as the millennial generation as it reaches middle age. But the demographic structure of the nation's Hispanic population has been of particular political interest to leaders of both parties.
As the disproportionately large number of Hispanics who are today younger than 18 reach voting age in the years ahead, they will constitute a larger share of the young voting-age population, and therefore, of the electorate. While young Hispanics of voting age today have an inclination to be politically independent, significantly more identify as Democrats than Republicans, both before and after they are asked about their political leanings. This Democratic orientation is underscored by the fact that more than seven in 10 currently approve of the job President Obama is doing, much higher than his approval rating among the overall population. Assuming that today's party preference patterns hold in the future, the young voting-age population of the future will thus be more Democratic in its political orientation than is the case today.
The extent to which the increase in the Hispanic proportion of the young adult population pays off for Democratic candidates in actual voting remains to be seen, because Hispanic registration and voter turnout in national elections has historically been significantly lower than that of other segments of the population. For example, the Census Bureau estimated that 48% of the eligible Hispanic electorate voted in the 2012 presidential election, compared with 64% for whites and 66% for blacks.
The best-case scenario for Democrats is a continuation of the substantial Democratic tilt in political identification among Hispanics in the years ahead and a simultaneous increase in their political participation. The best scenario for Republicans would be a transformative event -- such as the nomination of a popular Hispanic Republican candidate for president -- that diminishes Hispanics' attachment to the Democratic Party, or, failing that, a continuation of Hispanics' relatively low levels of political activity.
Results for this Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted Jan. 3-June 27, 2013, on the Gallup Daily tracking survey, with a random sample of 7,901 Hispanic adults, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia.
For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the margin of sampling error is ±2 percentage points.
Interviews are conducted with respondents on landline telephones and cellular phones, with interviews conducted in Spanish for respondents who are primarily Spanish-speaking. Each sample of national adults includes a minimum quota of 50% cellphone respondents and 50% landline respondents, with additional minimum quotas by region. Landline telephone numbers are chosen at random among listed telephone numbers. Cellphone numbers are selected using random digit dial methods. Landline respondents are chosen at random within each household on the basis of which member had the most recent birthday.
Samples are weighted to correct for unequal selection probability, nonresponse, and double coverage of landline and cell users in the two sampling frames. They are also weighted to match the national demographics of gender, age, race, Hispanic ethnicity, education, region, population density, and phone status (cellphone only/landline only/both, cellphone mostly, and having an unlisted landline number). Demographic weighting targets are based on the March 2012 Current Population Survey figures for the aged 18 and older U.S. population. Phone status targets are based on the July-December 2011 National Health Interview Survey. Population density targets are based on the 2010 census. All reported margins of sampling error include the computed design effects for weighting.
In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.
For more details on Gallup's polling methodology, visit www.gallup.com.