HIGH POINT, NC – North Carolina, home of this year’s Democratic National Convention, has been noted as a “hub of Latino migration to the South.” In the past 30 years, the Latino population in the Tar Heel State grew from less than half a percent of the total population to 8.4 percent. In the past decade alone, the state’s Latino population doubled in size. North Carolina boasts the most agricultural guest workers than any other state.
The growth in the Latino population in the United States has also helped fuel the growth of Latino voters in North Carolina. According to a study released by the Institute for Southern Studies in May of this year, there were 91,554 Latino voters in North Carolina, over two times the 44,719 Latino voters who were registered to vote in May 2008.
When asked about the Latino population growth in North Carolina, Carlos Casallas, the coordinator of special projects for the North Carolina state election board, told the press earlier this year, “Hispanics from other states are moving to the area and registering to vote, registration campaigns in the community, naturalizations of resident immigrants and 18-year-old youths are more excited about participating in the electoral process.”
According to the U.S. Census, 60% of the Latinos in North Carolina are of Mexican descent. And over 80% of the state’s Latinos are under the age of 40. Mexican Americans and younger Latinos tend to lean Democratic, which makes this population significant in the context of national elections. Issues such as education and immigration are of importance to this group. Despite the Supreme Court striking down part of Arizona’s controversial immigration law, SB 1070, North Carolina legislators have indicated that they still want to strengthen the state’s immigration laws.
In 2008, President Obama won North Carolina by about 14,000 votes. Public Policy Polling shows President Obama and Mitt Romney tied in North Carolina this week. For more context, the GOP candidate for governor in the state has a six point lead over his Democratic opponent. The growing Latino electorate in North Carolina has helped throw the state into play in presidential elections. As the Latino electorate continues to grow and assuming this segment of the electorate flexes its political muscle in high voter turnout, North Carolina will continue to be of importance nationally.