What Are Special Problems Faced by US Hispanic Politicians?

Marlene Garcia

Problems facing Hispanic politicians in the U.S. include low voter turnout and lack of a single cause uniting Hispanic voters. Many Hispanic voters rank low in education and occupational status, which contributes to low participation in politics, making it more difficult for Hispanic politicians to get elected. Politicians who do succeed in becoming public officials might lose constituent support if they fail to garner economic resources to help Hispanic communities.

Hispanic politicians may have a difficult time fundraising.
Hispanic politicians may have a difficult time fundraising.

The numbers of Hispanic politicians has grown, but no national leader exists to rally behind a particular candidate. Surveys also show Hispanic voters’ main concerns center on jobs, health care, education, and housing, issues that mirror voter sentiment across all ethnic and party lines. A Hispanic politician might find it difficult to focus on issues appealing to most voters, especially when running for higher office.

Problems facing Hispanic politicians in the US include low voter turnout among Hispanics.
Problems facing Hispanic politicians in the US include low voter turnout among Hispanics.

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Political solidarity might also become diluted because Hispanic designation includes voters from Puerto Rico, Cuba, Mexico, and South and Central America. It is a term coined by the U.S. government to identify people from Spanish-speaking countries, used primarily to collect census data. Hispanics make up the largest minority group in the U.S., but they might not vote as a united block.

Surveys also show division among Hispanics when asked whether immigration helps or harms the U.S. economy, considered a politically charged issue. Some voters see anti-immigration policies as symbols of discrimination, while others oppose granting rights to illegal immigrants. A Hispanic politician risks alienating constituents if he or she takes a strong stand on one side of the issue.

Most Hispanic voters traditionally registered as Democrats. In recent years, the trend began changing, with Hispanics voting for Republican candidates in key states with large Hispanic populations. A lack of party loyalty poses another problem for Hispanic politicians courting the Hispanic vote.

Hispanic politicians might represent less-affluent districts, making fundraising more difficult. This might put candidates at a disadvantage when campaigning and competing with candidates from wealthier districts. They might also face difficulty getting re-elected if campaign promises fail to materialize. Competition for economic resources to fight poverty and crime, and to provide youth services, might be fierce. Voters could lose faith if inequities in minority communities continue to exist after they support a Hispanic candidate.

Despite a substantial increase in the number of Hispanics living in the U.S. linked to birth rate and immigration, a high percentage of the increase represents people under voting age. Young Hispanics are also less likely to vote once they reach adulthood, even after they register. Surveys also indicate more than half of Hispanics in the U.S. lack voting rights because they have not attained citizenship.

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