The unstoppable growth of the U.S. Hispanic population is well documented. Hispanics are the nation’s largest ethnic group, making up 18 percent of the population. More and more, Hispanics are redefining American culture as we embrace both our Latino and American identities. And our influence on the American mainstream will increase: According to the U.S. Census Bureau, almost a third of Americans will have Latino heritage by 2060.
The Latino electorate is also growing — 27 million in 2016, a full 12 percent of November’s overall electorate. Hispanic voter registration across the country is also soaring in advance of the election, outpacing other demographic groups. For 3.4 million Latinos, this will be their very first election. The influence this group will exert is nowhere clearer than when we look at the extraordinary importance Latino Floridians will have on the 2016 contests.
Florida’s population has exploded in the past 30 years, resulting in one of the most economically, politically and demographically diverse Southern states. Today’s Florida is, however, not your father’s Southern state, and it is expected that it will not behave like its near neighbors. This is a crucial matter, given that its 29 electoral votes make it the third most consequential state (tied with New York) in next week’s election — and the most powerful of all swing states. Indeed, it’s hardly an exaggeration to say, as Florida goes, so goes the nation.
With the exception of 1992, Florida has voted with the winning candidate in every general election since 1976. According to the Pew Research Center, Latinos make up 18.1 percent of eligible voters in Florida, or nearly one in five. Latinos represent a significantly larger share of the Florida electorate than the national Latino eligible voter share of 12 percent.
What does this all-important segment of the Florida vote look like? In many ways, it is — perhaps surprisingly to some — a woman’s world. Hispanic women in particular are outpacing Hispanic men in education, career growth and financial decision-making. According to a recent report from Nielsen, 74 percent of female Hispanic high school graduates from 2012-2014 enrolled in college, outpacing both non-Hispanic whites and African Americans.
The Floridian Latina is becoming more and more influential. And the Miami Latina leads the way. According to Nielsen research, she is young: 32 percent are millennials. She is career-oriented: 57 percent of those surveyed said their goal was to make it to the top of her profession. She is socially ambitious: 40 percent say high social status is important.
The Miami Latina, like the Florida Latina in general, is also a powerful figure in the home, and therefore likely to have a powerful influence over fellow Latinas and Latinos. We are family-oriented, culturally connected individuals, stepping out into the public arena as never before.
Latinas are also super-social, and boldly so: Nielsen’s insights tell us 76 percent of Miami Latinas say they own a smartphone vs. 69 percent of all U.S. women (Miami millennial Latinas have the highest smartphone ownership penetration at 95 percent); and 71 percent of Latinas describe themselves as outspoken (vs. 58 percent of U.S. women). The Miami Latina over-indexes on many social and mobile behaviors. That means whatever she does — she does it more! And her voice is being heard.
The Latino voice is being heard and is shaping the world around us. This year, when Latinos and Latinas go to the polls in the unprecedented numbers that recent registrations suggest, it may well be that, as Florida’s Latinos go, so goes Florida. How — and if — Florida’s Latinos and Latinas vote on Nov. 8 has never been more important.
Suzanna Valdez serves on the Hispanic/Latino Advisory Council of Nielsen Media Research and is vice president of advancement at the Adrienne Arsht Center.