An Investigation of Latino Participation in Politics Essay

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An Investigation of Latino Participation in Politics

This research examines the disjuncture between Hispanic strength in population and Hispanic participation in politics. I examine the nature of this disjuncture: its severity, its causes, and its consequences. Hispanics currently comprise 11.2% of the U.S. population, but the Hispanic vote in the 1998 elections comprised only 4.7% of all ballots cast. The situation is even bleaker when considering Hispanic representation in Congress. Currently, less than four percent of U.S. House members are Latino. Add to that clear disjuncture the fact that two of the Hispanic Congressmen do not even possess the ability to vote and that there is not a single Hispanic Senator, and we see that
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Verba and his co-authors examine the import of participation, both voting and non-voting, in our American society. According to their argument, the typical citizen activist “tend[s] to be drawn disproportionately from more advantaged groups–to be well-educated and well-heeled and to be White and male” (Verba et al., 1995: 231). Indeed, Verba et al. explore participation along both gender and racial lines and concludes that both women and minorities are comparatively less active than men, especially white men, who stand peerless both in terms of affiliation with a political organization, contributing to a campaign, contacting their Representatives, and more direct forms of participation like voting.

Verba et al. also speak to the impact of income level on political participation, a topic often repeated by political scientists (DeSipio 1996, McClain and Tauber 1998). The conclusion: “for each kind of participation, affluence and participation go hand in hand” seems rather obvious (Verba et al. 1995: 189). Indeed, if a Latino parent works two low paying jobs and worries about paying the bills every month (as many do) he or she will likely have little incentive to travel to the polling place to ensure Hispanic representation in Washington. Additionally, Hispanics encounter further impediments to political participation: lower ages and education levels, coupled with language difficulties and illegal and non-citizen statuses further enlarge the gap between
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