Democracy in Immigrant America: Changing Demographics and Political Participation

By S. Karthick Ramakrishnan | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 3

A Matter of Numbers Immigrant Demographics and the Electoral Process

The sleeping giant now awakened. Many Hispanics who have not registered to vote are now doing so—and going to the polls. This includes many immigrants, who waited five years for residency and then became naturalized citizens. Between 80 — 90% of these new citizens have become registered voters, and most of them will show up at their polling place on Election Day.

Horton Scioneaux

The first step to understanding the political participation of immigrants is to consider their growing numbers at the state and national levels. This chapter addresses some fundamental questions regarding the demographic strengths of first- and second-generation immigrants in the United States. How many immigrants currently live in the United States, and how has their share of the total population changed in the past century? In which states do most immigrants now reside, and what proportion of the population do they represent in those states? Finally, how much do immigrants account for the voting-eligible population at the state and national level?

As the following analysis demonstrates, the rise in immigrant numbers has indeed led to a significant growth in the share of first- and second-generation immigrants in the national electorate and various state electorates since 1970. In many instances, however, the magnitude of these increases has been exaggerated, with overly optimistic rhetoric referring to immigrants as “sleeping giants” or “awakening gi

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