Presidential candidates stressed the role of minorities in the 2000 campaign a tactic to appeal to groups of voters whose overall presence is increasing.
Emphasis on minority groups in political campaigns stems from the shrinking Caucasian majority and the growth of minority groups, said Stanford political science Prof. Luis Fraga in a lecture delivered as part of the ongoing 2001 Martin Luther King Symposium in the Rackham Amphitheater Friday afternoon.
As the Latino population grows, so should its influence, he said.
Fraga mentioned results from the past five censuses which showed “very substantial population growth” in the nation”s Latino population. Latinos comprised 3.2 percent of the country”s overall population in 1960 and 11.5 percent in the most recent count, making them the second largest minority group. Blacks, the most populous minority group, make up 12.8 percent of the total population.
“It seems to me Latinos played a very different role in this election” than in any previous race, he said.
Both Republicans and Democrats increased their efforts to include diversity in their campaigns, sending a message to minority groups that “they”re not so small as to be insignificant,” Fraga said.
“Certainly there was more Spanish spoken,” Fraga said, highlighting one occasion when George W. Bush answered a question in Spanish and provided a simultaneous English translation.
Increased attention on minority groups “suggests potential,” Fraga said, but he later added “the potential has yet to be realized.”
The efforts the candidates made to include diversity in their campaigns may not have had as much of an effect as they may have hoped. Latinos” and other minorities” roles in the election may have been more symbolic than statistical, Fraga said.
Latinos were “symbolically included as a group that has been oppressed and ignored,” Fraga said. By aligning himself as a friend of minority groups, Bush established his “clear credibility as a candidate of inclusion” and “a different kind of Republican,” Fraga said.
Despite “symbolic leaders” in the GOP such as Bush”s Cabinet members Condoleezza Rice and Colin Powell, Fraga said, blacks still cast their votes overwhelmingly for the Democratic party.
In Bush”s home state of Texas, Latinos favored Democratic presidential candidate Al Gore by a margin of 2-1. Bush”s efforts to embrace diversity allowed him to maintain support but not gain any. Bush did not receive any more Latino votes in the presidential election than he did in his last gubernatorial race, Fraga said.
The Latino vote didn”t make a difference in Texas, but it did have an impact in other states.
Florida”s results were “something different.” Mostly because of the state”s large Cuban-American population, which traditionally votes Republican, Bush carried 49 percent of the Latino vote.
English and American Culture assistant Prof. John Gonzalez said Fraga”s work in analyzing the roles of various groups in elections is important to recognize. The trends Fraga emphasized can be used to make people more aware of their role and spark interest and participation.
“I think it”s an important topic especially given the way the election went down,” said LSA junior Adriana Midence, who attended the event. Much of the coverage on minority voting was focused on blacks, Midence said.