Produced by the Department of Media Relations & Publications

The Latino Vote in the 2008 Election

October 15, 2008

In this segment, Lehman Journalism, Communication, and Theatre Professor Miguel Perez discusses the Latino vote and its impact on the 2008 presidential election.

4 Minutes 7 Seconds

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This is Nella Valentino, a graduate student in Lehman's Composition and Rhetoric Program. In this segment, Lehman Journalism, Communication, and Theatre Professor Miguel Perez discusses the Latino vote and its impact on the 2008 presidential election. Professor Perez is an award-winning columnist and radio and television talk show host. He has spent his 30-year career covering the issues and concerns of Latinos in the United States.

Professor Perez, which political party do most Latinos ascribe to? Republicans, Democrats, Independents?



Latinos, overall, tend to be Democratic. The Democrat, automatically, always gets about 60, and the Republican always gets about 30 something. High 30s. So that if a Republican comes in and does better than 40 percent, he's doing really well. And that's as much as he will expect of the Hispanic vote.

That's when Latinos have helped Republicans in the past. It's when Latinos have voted 44 or 45 percent for people like Bush or for people like Reagan. Latinos went very strongly for Reagan and very strongly for George Bush, the first time around. And that helped them a lot. Especially in the state of Florida. We know how contested the state of Florida was in the year 2000. And the Latino vote in Florida had a lot to do with giving that election to George Bush.



What are some of the important issues for Latinos today?



The fact is, immigration is the number one issue in the Hispanic community. Regardless of what the polls say, that's just my opinion. But, of course, education is very, very high up there. Healthcare is very, very important to Latinos. Domestic issues, frankly, more than foreign policy.



What do Latinos have to do to gain a stronger foothold in the political arena?



Frankly, I think we need more independent voices in the Hispanic community. We need the Latinos who will go against the machine. Unfortunately, we have a lot of Latino community activists with very, very good intentions. Who start out by really wanting to do some positive things for their people, for their community. And then they have to basically sell out to one of these political machines from either party. Because, you know, it's one thing for the politicians to come to our community and say to us what we want to hear. But then, when they're speaking to a national audience, they say something totally different because they don't want to alienate a certain crowd.



What do Republicans and Democrats have to do to win the Latino vote?



Democrats definitely have to stop taking the Latino vote for granted. They have to mean what they say. You know, we are tired of the rhetoric. Latinos want to hear constructive ideas, details about what they're really gonna do for our community.

In terms of immigration, again, which is a main issue, explain exactly, Mr. Obama, how you're gonna convince that Congress that has opposed immigration reform for so many years. You say you're gonna do it in the first year of your administration. How exactly do you get this past Congress? And then for Mr. McCain, how long does it take for you to enforce the borders first? Which is what you say you want to do now. Before you give some kind of amnesty to the 12 million illegal immigrants in the country.

So there are questions, a lot of questions, that the Latino community still hasn't heard answers for from these two candidates. And-- a lot-- frankly, a lot of us are still waiting for the debates. There's a lot of Latinos who are still undecided at this late date.



To learn more about Professor Perez's work and that of other Lehman faculty, visit This is a production of the Lehman College Media Relations Office.