It's true that Latino voters cast ballots in record numbers last November, playing a hand in the outcome of the presidential election. But progress is a relative thing.
This is according to Pew Research, which has crunched census numbers and learned that in fact, a lesser percentage of Latino eligible voters turned out in 2012 than in 2008. In the previous election, close to 50 percent of eligible Latino voters cast a ballot; last year, 48 percent did.
The reason for the gap, math-wise, is that there are now more eligible Latino voters than there were in 2008. How the Pew report explains it:
Rapid growth of the nation’s Latino population has fueled quick growth in the number of Latinos eligible to vote (U.S. citizen adults). Between 2008 and 2012, the number of Latino eligible voters grew from 19.5 million to 23.3 million—an increase of 19%.
By contrast, the number of Latino voters increased by 15% over 2008. With the number of Latino voters growing more slowly than the number of Latino eligible voters, the Latino voter turnout rate declined between 2008 and 2012 — despite a record turnout.
Driving the growth in the ranks of Latino eligible voters is young people. Of the 3.8 million Latinos who became eligible to vote between 2008 and last year's election, 3.7 million were U.S.-born Latinos who turned 18, according to the study.
This bodes well for future Latino civic engagement, but there's still a long way to go. Compared with non-Latino whites and blacks who voted in 2012, Latinos lagged behind with their 48 percent turnout rate. The rate among black voters in 2012 was almost 67 percent; among whites it was 64 percent.
There were some groups of Latinos who made it to the polls more than others. Three groups among whom the turnout rate did not decline in 2012 were: a) naturalized citizens who arrived from Latin America in the 1990s; b) Latinos age 65 and older, and; c) Puerto Ricans, whose turnout rate went from less than 50 percent in 2008 to almost 53 percent in 2012.
As for the highest turnout rates among specific groups, those went to Latinos with college degrees (70 percent) and Cuban Americans (67 percent).
See the full report here.