The Republican stranglehold on Arizona will likely erode over the next several decades as the emerging Latino vote takes hold, a new report from Arizona State University says.
But don't get too excited about this year, Democrats, because the shift is likely to happen over the next several decades, estimates the new report from Arizona State University's Morrison Institute for Public Policy.
“The demographics are undeniable: Unless there is an unforeseeable sea change in Latino voting patterns, Arizona is destined to become a much less Republican-dominated state, perhaps even changing from red to blue in the coming decades. The change will be slow — the full impact won’t be felt for another 20 or 30 years — but incremental and noticeable, as our state’s political face is changed irrevocably by Arizona’s emerging Latino vote.
The prediction is based on the fact that Latinos are the state’s fastest-growing ethnicity and could account more than 50 percent of Arizona's population by 2050.
The study acknowledges that reliable public data about which political party Latinos belong to is scarce, but says that exit polls regularly show that Arizona latinos lean Democrat. The Obama campaign estimates that there are more than three times as many registered Democrats as Republicans in Arizona.
As I pointed in out in my recent story about the push by Democrats to take Arizona this year in the Presidential and Senate races, the rapid growth of Latinos over the last decade has not yet translated into more Democrats.
The number of Hispanics who are eligible to vote in Arizona grew from 616,000 to 1 million from 2000 to 2010, which was double the growth of white voters in that span and faster than any other ethnic group.
But the Republican voter margin over Democrats actually widened during that time. Republicans have 6 percent more voters today, compared to 5 percent in 2000.
Republicans say those figures prove that no one group of people is monolithic, and that the assumption that Latinos overwhelming lean Democrat is exaggerated.
The new ASU study suggests that younger Latinos are more likely than older Latinos to lean independent or Democrat, which will drive the shift.
“While Latinos (like all ethnicities) are comprised of members from all political persuasions, they are unlikely as a group to support a Republican agenda," the report says.
The models estimate that by 2030, Democrats and Republican will be tied with 32 percent of the state’s registered voters. Independent voters will make up the largest share at 35 percent.
Currently, there are 1.1 million registered Republicans in the state, which accounts for 36 percent of registered voters, compared to 30 percent Democrats. Independent voters make up 33 percent.
The estimates are based on a bank in changed behavior among Latinos.
“Latinos are less likely to be registered to vote, and less likely to vote, than their white, non-Latino counterparts today. But if they change that behavior and begin to register and vote in larger numbers – as many observers say is already beginning to happen –Latinos can be a major influence on state politics and in state government in the near future. Data and demographics tell us a change in the political face of Arizona is on the horizon with the emerging Latino voter. It’s not a matter of if, but when.”
Stay tuned to the Pueblo Politics blog throughout 2012 for news, updates and information about Arizona politics. You can follow Arizona Daily Star reporters Brady McCombs and Becky Pallack on Twitter.