Blog: Latino Ed Beat

What Is Motivating Young Latinos to Vote?

I can’t even count how many times I’ve seen headlines this election season about polarizing campaign rhetoric being used to bully and harass Latino students.

It’s happened in Iowa. In Oregon. North Carolina. Ohio. California. On college campuses and even in grade schools — sometimes by outsiders, but often by peers. And these incidents usually involve a reference to Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s promise to build a wall on the southern border of the United States.

Polls suggest it could be driving Latinos to the voting booth.

The median age of U.S.-born Latinos is 19, and almost half of all Latinos eligible to vote in this election are millennials. That makes high school and college campuses hot spots for groups, such as the civic-minded nonprofit organizations Voto Latino and Mi Familia Vota, that hope to increase voter registration among the 3.2 million Latinos who have turned 18 since the 2012 presidential race. 

According to a Pew Research Center analysis, 75 percent of Latinos registered to vote say they have discussed Trump’s comments about Hispanics or other groups with family, friends or coworkers in the past year. Of these, 74 percent have given the presidential election “quite a lot” of thought and are “absolutely certain” that they will vote.

Mary Victorio, a Mexican-born student at the University of Colorado Denver, told the Los Angeles Times earlier this year that she is, in a way, grateful to Trump: “He gave us that extra push we needed to get ready to vote, to prove to people who see us negatively they are wrong.”

Grand Canyon University student Irma Maldonado, a U.S. citizen by birth whose mother was an undocumented immigrant, plans to use her first vote to “say no to Donald Trump,” she said in an interview with USA Today.

Still, there are political divisions within the Latino community, as with any group.

Latinos whose families have been in the U.S. for multiple generations and speak primarily English are more likely to vote Republican than those who more recently arrived in the country, the Associated Press reports

One young Latino, Leo Lopez, a student at Colorado State University-Pueblo whose father immigrated from Mexico in the 1980s, told the outlet he was leaning toward voting for Trump. The candidate’s tax plan would help him out more, he said.

On a Latinos/Hispanics for Donald Trump Facebook page with more than 30,000 followers, others cite national security and illegal immigration as reasons they’re supporting the Republican candidate over Clinton.

But regardless of how young Latinos plan to vote, will they make it to the polls?

Part of the challenge is that nearly half of Latino voters live in California and Texas – “states that are reliably blue and red, respectively, and where presidential candidates don’t spend a lot of time and money,” Rick Jervis writes for USA Today.

Historically, Latino voter turnout has been low — and not just among millennials.

Perhaps Trump’s comments will make a difference this year. Perhaps not.

In just four more days, we’ll know for sure.