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5 The HispanicVote in Florida 2016 Michael Binder and Peter Licari The “sleeping giant” of Hispanic voters may not have awakened in November 2016, but the size and shape of that community is changing in Florida. Looking back a mere twenty-five years shows how a subtle evolution can lead to large changes. Even as this growing segment of the Florida electorate is altered in its makeup, there are consistencies that remain within these groups. Understanding the issues that are of importance to these communities can help better grasp what led to the outcome of the 2016 presidential election. Demographic and Partisan Changes: 1990–2016 Before we discuss how Florida’s changing demographics have impacted its electoral politics, a good first step would be to establish just how the state’s population has changed over the last twenty-five years and how these changes have impacted the voice that Latinos have in Florida’s elections . Common sense dictates that we would have seen pretty significant growth across the state. After all, Hispanics have long been acknowledged to be the fastest-growing ethnic group across the country; there is very little reason to believe that we would not uncover a similar story here. Common sense holds true. Even so, it is difficult not to be struck by the extent and contours of the demographic changes Florida has endured in the past quarter-century. 110 · Michael Binder and Peter Licari We opt to demonstrate the changes in the state’s demographic makeup by using the U.S. Census’s decennial estimates for 1990 and 2010. These data are advantageous for a few reasons. First, the structure of the U.S. Census’s data facilitates county-level analysis. Florida’s sixty-seven counties are geographically, economically, and demographically diverse; any understanding of the evolution of the Hispanic population ought to have been formulated with this diversity in mind. Second, these estimates allow us to have an accurate picture of what proportion of a county identifies as Hispanic, a clear boon for a project of this kind. Finally, the data provide a detailed demographic breakdown on some of the specific ethnicities and origins that constitute the general “Hispanic” or “Latino” label.1 This label has become more inclusive over time: the 1990 data only specifically mention those of Cuban, Mexican, or Puerto Rican descent, while the 2010 data specify these three as well as those of Central and South American descent. This means that we are able to have a detailed look at the plurality ethnic groups in each county in both 1990 and 2010 and to see how the composition has changed over that period of time. To be sure, this measurement scheme is not perfect. Counties in Florida are not only demographically and geographically diverse, size and population vary tremendously. Physically larger counties like Collier , Palm Beach, and Miami-Dade are each almost 2,000 square miles, but Bradford, Pinellas, and Union Counties are each less than 300 square miles. Miami-Dade County has upward of 2.7 million residents, while smaller counties such as Liberty and Lafayette have less than 9,000 residents . County-level variation, on the one hand, is an asset in this type of analysis; however, the size and population variation does require caution when interpreting county-level analysis. Additionally, the question prompted by this election is how the Latino vote has evolved over the last twenty-five years. A lot can change in a period of a few years. For instance, the data ending in 2010 would be absent information pertaining to the migration of hundreds of thousands of Puerto Ricans to the Central Florida area as the territory’s financial situation took a downward turn in the early 2010s. Nor does this project take into account the potential influx of Puerto Ricans after the devastation from Hurricane Maria in the fall of 2017. However, a wide brush is better than no brush at all.2 What these particular data may lack in perfect fidelity, they more than make up for in the scope of the picture they paint. The Hispanic Vote in Florida 2016 · 111 Turning first to Figure 5.1, we can see that most of the state was relatively homogenous in 1990, at least with regard to the Hispanic population . Most of the state’s counties had fewer than 5 percent of their residents identifying as Hispanic in the 1990 census. Even along the state’s populous I-4 corridor, only Hillsborough and Osceola...


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