Nov. 14, 2012 -- The number of Latino voters will likely double over the next two decades, according to a report released today by the Pew Hispanic Center.
While the country's 53 million Hispanics account for 17 percent of the population, they represent only 10 percent of all voters, according to national exit polling. The report projects that Hispanic voters will account for 40 percent of the growth in the U.S. electorate between now and 2030, increasing the number of eligible Hispanic voters from 23.7 million to 40 million.
The report uses a boxing metaphor to describe the present voting landscape, saying that Latinos still "punch below their weight."
That will change over the next two decades. Part of the reason for the projected increase is that Hispanics are the youngest ethnic group in the U.S. The average age for a Hispanic is 27. For a native-born Hispanic, it's even lower, at 18.
The average age for white non-Hispanic voters is 42, according to the report.
"In the coming decades, their share of the age-eligible electorate will rise markedly through generational replacement alone," the report says.
Researchers found that immigration and naturalization will also help grow the Latino vote. According to the report, 5.4 million Hispanics who are legal permanent residents did not vote because they are not citizens. About half of immigrants from Latin America naturalize -- a rate lower than other immigrant groups -- and they do so "to gain civil and legal rights, including the right to vote," the report says.
The report also references 7.1 million Hispanic undocumented immigrants who could potentially gain a pathway to citizenship through immigration reform, if Congress passes such a bill.
Yet the largest impact for this group will come from Latino youth, 93 percent of whom are native born. At present, 17.6 million Latinos are under 18 and therefore ineligible to vote. But an estimated 800,000 Latinos turn 18 each year, a figure that will increase in the coming decades.That growth alone could add an additional 16 million voters in 2030, the report said.