Tequila Party

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What will it take for the upstart Tequila Party to become a political force to be reckoned with? Pollster Mike O’Neil discusses challenges facing this group that seeks to get out the Latino vote and champion issues such as immigration reform.

Ted Simons: Good evening and welcome to "Horizon." I'm Ted Simons. The national tequila party movement is launching its get out the Latino vote campaign this weekend. The nonpartisan group will be holding a series of events with the stated goal of getting Hispanics to vote, regardless of party preference. Here to talk about this is pollster Mike O'Neil.
Ted Simons: All right. National Tequila Party Movement. What are we talking about here?

Mike O'Neil: We're talking about the fact that Hispanics are the most under-performing group in terms of voting. The Hispanic population has been exploding. Census figures: 35 million by 2000. By 2010, it's 51 million. But in terms of voting, their influence diminishes greatly. 16% of the population of the United States is Hispanic. 10% of the eligible voters are Hispanic but only 7% of actual voters are Hispanic.

Ted Simons: Why is that?

Mike O'Neil: It's a number of things. First, demographics explains some but not all of it. For example, those under 30 vote in much smaller proportions and Hispanics have a larger proportion of those under 30, but even when you account for that, it's still under performing across the board, so it's not only demographics, it's also culture. Interesting, every single Hispanic group covers a wide range of ethnicities. There's one of the hispanic groups that votes at the same ratio as whites. That's Cubans and all others down by half.

Ted Simons: It's interesting, what do you see from other ethnic minorities? Asians, American Indians and Hispanics?

Mike O'Neil: Sure, nonvoting behavior, for exampe, 31% of eligible Hispanics voted in 2010. That number is 49% among white, 44% among blacks.

Ted Simons: I -- I asked why, because -- demographics play a part, you also said there may be cultural aspects?

Mike O'Neil: Yeah, because we've looked at every different demographic factor education, the more educated you are, the more likely you are to vote. Among Hispanics as among whites and other, the mother educated, the more likely you were to vote, but at every educational level, Hispanics are still less likely to vote than non-Hispanics of the same educational level and you're left with - it's unexplained but basically there's nothing left other than culture or habituation -- this is not just about legality. There is a higher percentage of Hispanics who are not citizens. But, even when you exclude that group, Hispanics under perform in terms of a propensity to vote than just about every other group in the population.

Ted Simons: So here comes the National Tequila Party Movement to try to change this. Can this -- first, this is supposed to be a nonpartisan group. Do you senses it a nonpartisan group?

Mike O'Neil: I don't know what it is. If you raise the proportion of Hispanics voting right now, you will almost inevitably aid Democrats because two out of three in the last election voted democratic. It's going up to three out of four. In other words, it's not as monolithic as blacks where it's 90-95% democratic. So the impact of Hispanics in a partisan sense is diminished by the fact it's not a monolithic vote. But any time you raise the base, the impact is greater.

Ted Simons: The tequila party situation, it sounds like the idea, the goal is not so much ideological, it's supposed to be nonpartisan. It's supposed to get out the vote, however, it seems to be a little bit of a reaction or mirroring in some ways of the tea party movement. Could it be a democratic version of the tea party? Could it be a Republican version of the tea party but for Latinos?

Mike O'Neil: I'm hard pressed to see the Republican scenario. If you increased the proportion of Hispanics voting, you'll increase the Democratic vote. If anything - if anything you would probably increase the Hispanic, the proportion of the Hispanics who vote, because it's going to be more downscale Hispanics you bring in. The college or higher income Hispanics are already voting at higher numbers. So the increment, I told you that two-thirds of the Hispanics are voting democratic. Amongst non-voters, it would probably be three-quarters or 80%.

Ted Simons: What did we see is the Obama election and conversely, two years later, did we see a dropoff there?

Mike O'Neil: You did. The black proportion votes in 2008 did not exceed the white proportion but got close for the first time ever and there was something of a dropoff. Not completely going back to historical levels, So there was an enduring effect but also a short-term one-time effect. I think that the whole aura of immigration and in many cases the demonization of Hispanics I think is underlying a lot of this. They're saying we're getting beat up and we're not voting and we're not taken seriously and there is -- while the Hispanic group is not monolithic on this, it is pretty substantially divided. For example, 85% of Hispanics favor comprehensive immigration reform. Something that is anathema in the Republican party and is more ambiguous in the democratic. 86 percent disapprove of S.B. 1070. It's a pretty overwhelming number.

Ted Simons: Brings up the question, last question, let's say that the federal government tries to try comprehensive immigration reform and succeeds, will that bring out more Latino voters or -- I mean, does something like this -- national tour of concerts and events and dinners and rallies, that's what the tequila party is talking about right now -- a charismatic candidate -- you mentioned cultural, is it the kind of thing that will last until it doesn't last anymore?

Mike O'Neil: I think essentially probably, in all probability, a multigenerational phenomenon. You come to this country and don't speak the language but your kids do and over one or two generations you get acculturated and you basically become like the larger community. That's -- that's the long term thing. The Tequila Party idea is let's give it a shot in the arm, but frankly, I'll believe that when I see it. The -- these are a gallant effort but usually takes something to mobilize. In the case of blacks, Obama was a big deal. This case, I don't think passing comprehensive immigration reform probably has the reverse effect. If we're no longer being demonized in the body politic, the motivation to act goes away. To the extent that the Hispanics feel they're beat up by the system, that can be a motivating influence, but that's a tough steep hill to climb.

Ted Simons: Thanks for joining us.

Mike O'Neil: Thank you.

Mike O'Neil: Pollster;

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