Michael Barone

It is widely accepted that Hispanics will become a larger share of the American electorate in the years to come.

This is a matter of simple arithmetic. Less than one-tenth of adults counted in the 2010 Census classified themselves as "Hispanic" (a term invented by the Census Bureau for the 1970 count).

But one-quarter of children were similarly classified. Many of them the offspring of illegal aliens, were born in the U.S. and thus entitled to citizenship.

It's true that Hispanics may not be as large a share of voters as is sometimes projected. There has been zero net migration from Mexico to this country since 2007, and, given advances in Mexico, immigration at the 1982-2007 levels may never resume.

In any case, Hispanics are bound to form some larger percentage of the electorate than the 10 percent recorded in the 2012 exit poll, and one that inevitably will be targeted by both parties and many candidates.

Which is why it may be helpful to expose two myths about Hispanic voters advanced by both the political right and the political left over the past few years.

One, advanced hopefully by the right, is that Hispanics are highly religious and family oriented, and as a result are natural cultural conservatives.

The picture these analysts paint looks much like 1950s Irish-American Catholics, regular Mass attenders with large families. But in fact, Hispanic rates of divorce, unmarried motherhood and single-parent families are significantly higher than among whites (though lower than among blacks).

Latin Catholicism has traditionally been more lenient on mores than traditional Irish-influenced American Catholicism; the Catholic Church has not survived for nearly 2,000 years without adapting to local terrain.

Recent polling shows that Hispanics are as accepting of same-sex marriage as most Americans and that opposition to abortion among Hispanics is higher than average only among immigrants and not among their children and grandchildren.

"Family value" themes may resonate among the one-sixth of Hispanics who are evangelical Protestants, but not so much among others.

A second myth about Hispanic voters, advanced by many on the left, but also ruefully by some on the right, is that they are big government liberals.

This finds backing in surveys where Hispanics are more likely than average to say that they favor a bigger government providing more services and less likely to favor a smaller government providing fewer services.


Michael Barone

Michael Barone, senior political analyst for The Washington Examiner (www.washingtonexaminer.com), is a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, a Fox News Channel contributor and a co-author of The Almanac of American Politics. To find out more about Michael Barone, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com. COPYRIGHT 2011 THE WASHINGTON EXAMINER. DISTRIBUTED BY CREATORS.COM