Young Latino voters may hold the key to the White House door.

They increased their support for Democrats at a larger rate than any other youth group in 2008. But voting rates among young Latinos continues to be significantly lower than they are for black and white youth.

So if President Obama can hold on to this demographic and boost the turnout among Latino youth in November, his chances of winning re-election will go up.

Recent surveys by Latino Decisions (the leading Latino public opinion polling firm) show that even in states with relatively small numbers of Latinos (such as South Carolina, Ohio and Virginia), the slightest shift in Latino voting patterns could have a significant impact on the 2012 presidential outcome.

However, Obama’s record on issues of particular importance to Latinos has not been stellar. His lack of immigration reform, coupled with the largest number of deportations under his administration than with any other president, might make many Latinos less motivated to vote for him.

On the other hand, the rhetoric coming out of the Republican Party is likely to keep Latinos from pulling the GOP lever. This gives Obama an opportunity.

But his mobilization drive might not be as easy as it was during the 2008 election, when the “Yes We Can/Si Se Puede” slogan seemed to invigorate Latinos — especially Latino youth — to support and campaign for him. Millions felt the urge to make history in 2008. That huge pull is not there this time.

Mobilizing the Latino youth is important not only for the 2012 election but for others down the road.

According to a study conducted through the Pew Research Center, Latinos are much younger than other racial groups. As Latinos get older and as the population of Latinos rises due to increasing birth rates, not immigration, this voting bloc will only become more pivotal.

It behooves the Democrat Party to establish the habit of voting among Latino youth, a majority of whose parents are not U.S. citizens. In many of these families, voting has not yet become a civic ritual. By introducing Latino youth to the ballot, the Democratic Party might set a pattern that could persist for generations.

So far, the Democratic Party’s mobilizing efforts targeting Latino youth have been dismal. Fortunately, one group is doing an excellent job: Voto Latino. It is dedicated to promoting civic engagement, especially among young people, and it provides free music at events where Latino youth can register to vote.

The Latino youth vote is Obama’s for the taking. But he’ll have to court it. He should adopt more humane immigration policies, and, more importantly, he needs to go out and campaign with young Latinos.

Then he may get not only a receptive audience, but also get re-elected.

Claudia Sandoval is a graduate student in political science at the University of Chicago. She can be reached at

You can read more pieces from The Progressive Media Project by clicking here.

Add new comment

By submitting this form, you accept the Mollom privacy policy.


Forty years ago the UN General Assembly passed a resolution against "hostile environmental modification techniques...

The beauty and the tragedy of everyday life in a war zone.

By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.

Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).

Public School Shakedown

Progressive Media Project