New Latino Demographics Could Turn Nevada Blue, Red States Purple

Nevada may not be a swing state much longer. A new study from the Center for American Progress suggests that the rapidly growing number of Hispanic Nevadans could have a powerful impact in the voting booth.

The center found that the number of Latino voters figures to go up by more than 4 million—about 17 percent—by the 2016 presidential election. In Nevada, the percentage increase will be staggering: another 47,300 Latino voters, or a 49 percent hike, by the 2014 midterms, and then double that increase for 2016 to more than 100,000 Hispanics.

As it is, Nevada has a significant Hispanic vote. About 27 percent of Nevada’s 2.7 million residents are Latino, according to the 2010 census, up from just under 20 percent of the 2 million population in 2000 and reflecting about half of the state’s population growth in that decade.

What this means for Nevada and the country is good news for Democrats and bad news for Republicans—for now. In 2010, Hispanic voters helped put Senator Harry Reid, whom too many political analysts had viewed as a sure loser in his re-election bid, over the top: one survey showed Hispanics voted for Reid by a margin of 90-8. In 2012, Barack Obama won the Hispanic vote 70-25 in Nevada, about the national average.

It’s no surprise that national Republican governors have turned to Nevada’s Governor Brian Sandoval to help with recruiting and training Latino candidates. But Sandoval’s numbers at home are telling. An election eve poll by Latino Decisions in 2010 showed Sandoval losing the Hispanic vote to his opponent, Democrat Rory Reid, 84-15. It speaks volumes about how much trouble the GOP is in with Hispanics.

Nor is it any wonder that some Republican leaders nationally and in Nevada are talking more seriously about immigration reform. That could be especially important in Nevada, where Mexicans compose more than three-quarters of the Latino populace. Think about it: which group of Latinos is most affected by talk of border fences and the like? And which party talks that way, and suffers accordingly at the polls?

In presidential races, historically, Nevada has followed or reflected the country: the only presidential election in the past century in which the state’s electoral votes didn’t go to the winner was in 1976. That makes sense: Nevada’s population has been climbing steadily for much of that period, and with people moving from around the country, the state has been a Petri dish for examining political trends.

Now Nevada could serve the same purpose for a different reason. Those whose Hispanic populations will grow only slightly less include Alabama and Georgia, which haven’t been swing states, but also Virginia and Iowa, which have been. The Hispanic population in Texas will grow a projected 58.1 percent by 2016 or by just over 900,000 voters, so the talk of turning the Lone Star State blue isn’t all that cockeyed, even if most of the Republicans there are. California’s,
Arizona’s and New Mexico’s Hispanic voting populations will go up at least two-thirds.

If Republicans don’t learn from this, once solidly red states could start changing to purple. Nevada is purple now, but at this rate, it could be a lot bluer, and a lot sooner than you might have expected.