Cross-posted at Thick Culture.
As of the 2010 Census, Latinos represent 17 percent of the US population, but are woefully underrepresented in traditional forms of political participation like voting and making campaign contributions. The Pew Hispanic center reports that while Latinos represented 21% of all eleigible voters in 2010, they accounted for only 6.6% of midterm election voters.
One area where Latinos are more likely to participate when compared to non-Latino whites is in outsider forms of participation like protest activity. This form of activity became synonymous with Latino political participation during the 2006 Grand Marcha where 500,000 protesters packed streets to protest immigration bills. A 2006 CIRCLE study finds that Latino youth, while not engaged in formal types of participation were much more likely to report having engaged in a protest:
Although young Latinos are generally not as engaged as other racial/ethnic
groups, 25% said that they had participated in a protest—more than twice the
proportion of any other racial/ethnic group.
By comparison, only 11% of all youth surveyed had reported taking part in a protest. The accounts for why Latinos protest more than other groups vary but a main causal fator is the lack of access to formal political channels, particularly for non-citizens and undocumented immigrants. Lisa Martinez (2008) points out that Latinos are less likely to engage in protest activity when they live in places with high numbers of elected officials. Is the increase in Latino political engagement via protest simply the result of demographic realities (e.g. residents can’t vote) or is it a leading indicator of an overall dissatisfaction with politics?
Jose Marichal, PhD, is an assistant professor of political science at California Lutheran University. He teaches and writes about: public policy, race and politics, civic engagement, the Internet and politics, and community development. He is founder of the blog ThickCulture.