I. Overview

Updated June 4, 2008 to include results from the Puerto Rico primary

Updated March 7, 2008 to include results from Texas and other recent primaries

Hispanics voted for Sen. Hillary Clinton over Sen. Barack Obama by a margin of nearly two-to-one in the race for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination, according to an analysis by the Pew Hispanic Center of exit polls taken throughout the primary season. The Center’s analysis also finds a sharp increase in Latino electoral participation in 2008, with their share of the Democratic primary vote rising in 16 of the 19 states for which exit polling makes it possible to compare 2008 and 2004 turnout shares.

Latino voters were especially important to Clinton in the mega-states California and Texas, where their share of the primary vote rose dramatically between 2004 and 2008. In California, Latino voters comprised 30% of the turnout (up from 16% in 2004) and in Texas, Latino voters comprised 32% of the turnout (up from 24% in 2004). Clinton would have lost both states were it not for the strong support she received from Latinos.

This report examines the turnout, demographic characteristics, opinions and voting patterns of the Latino electorate in Democratic primaries and caucuses held in 2008.1 Where possible, it draws comparisons and contrasts among Latino, black and white voting patterns. It also compares Latino turnout in 2008 with turnout in 2004. The report is based on an analysis of Super Tuesday exit polling data about Latinos that the Pew Hispanic Center received on a contractual basis from Edison Media Research and Mitofsky International, the firm that conducts exit poll surveys for the National Election Pool, a national consortium of media organizations. It also utilizes tabulations from exit polls made publicly available by CNN for a number of states whose primaries were not on Super Tuesday.

Key findings in this report:

  • In a year when the turnout in the Democratic primaries and caucuses has risen sharply across the board, Latinos made up a growing share of the turnout in 16 of the 19 states for which exit polling permits a comparison between 2008 and 2004. The most noteworthy increases came in California and Texas. In California, Latinos were 30% of all Democratic primary voters on Feb. 5, compared with their 16% share in 2004. In Texas, Latinos were 32% of all Democratic primary voters on March 4, compared with their 24% share in 2004.
  • Latinos in the Democratic primaries have shown a heavy preference for Clinton, supporting her over Obama in the Super Tuesday primaries 63% to 35%, in the Texas primary 66% to 32%, and in the Puerto Rico primary 68% to 32%.2
  • Hispanic voters in the Super Tuesday Democratic primaries were markedly younger than voters in other racial and ethnic groups. More than one-in-five Hispanic voters on Super Tuesday were ages 17 to 29, and more than half of all Hispanic voters were younger than 45. By comparison, just one-third of white voters in the Super Tuesday Democratic primaries were younger than 45.
  • Hispanic men and women of all ages, educational levels and incomes voted for Clinton over Obama on Super Tuesday. For example, younger Hispanics (ages 17 to 29) voted heavily for Clinton (62%) over Obama (37%) on Feb. 5, in contrast to their counterparts among whites and blacks.
  • On Super Tuesday, Hispanics were more likely than whites to say that race was an important factor in deciding their vote—28% of Hispanics said this compared with 13% of whites. However, Hispanics who said that race was important voted for Clinton by about the same percentage (64%) as did Hispanics who said race was not important (63%). By contrast, whites who said race was important were more likely to vote for Clinton than were other whites. And blacks who said race was important (29% of all black voters) were more likely to vote for Obama than were other blacks—87% did, compared with 80% of blacks who said race was not important.
  • Latinos were also more likely than whites to say that a candidate’s gender was important in their voting decisions on Super Tuesday. Latinos for whom gender was important were more likely to vote for Hillary Clinton than those who said gender was not important.
  • A majority of Hispanic voters on Super Tuesday (53%) said that the economy is the most important issue facing the country, a greater share than that of white voters who said the same thing (45%).

About this Report

The exit poll data used in this report come from the Edison Media Research and Mitofsky International National Election Pool Entrance and Exit Poll Surveys of voters in states that have held primaries and caucuses this year. Data for the analysis of voters in the 16 Democratic primaries held on Super Tuesday, Feb. 5, 2008, were provided to the Pew Hispanic Center on a contractual basis by Edison Media Research and Mitofsky International. These 16 exit polls were aggregated and weighted into a single dataset for Hispanic, white non-Hispanic and black non-Hispanic voters. The sample size for the aggregated Hispanic voter dataset was 1,809 survey respondents. The sample size for the white non-Hispanic voter dataset was 11,558. And the size for the black non-Hispanic voter dataset was 3,120. The 16 states included in this aggregated analysis are Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Illinois, Massachusetts, Missouri, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Utah. All other analysis from entrance and exit polls conducted by Edison/Mitofsky in non-Super Tuesday states, including Texas, comes from tabulations made publicly available by CNN. Results from Puerto Rico are based on complete vote tallies published by the Puerto Rico State Electoral Commission.

A Note on Terminology

The terms “Latino” and “Hispanic” are used interchangeably in this report. References to “whites” and “blacks” are to the non-Hispanic components of those populations.