BY MONICA VEGA
Since the beginning of the rise of the Hispanic population in the 1980’s, a pattern in voting has remained unchanged: Hispanics tend to vote Democratic. No Republican candidate since 1980 has gained a majority of the Hispanic vote.
Furthermore, the number of Hispanics in the US has been steadily rising. No one can credibly deny the impact of the . For this reason, many have been speculating about the role that the Hispanic vote will have in the upcoming 2016 election. While history points to a majority of Hispanics voting democratic, recent changes in the Republican Party suggest that the GOP could increase their share of the Hispanic vote and even assure a victory in 2016.
According to the Pew Research Center, from 2012 to 2013, Hispanics accounted for 78% of the total population change in the United States. What is interesting about this 78% is that it was due to births of Hispanics in the United States, not due to immigration.
This suggests that the Hispanic population in the United States is no longer a majority of first generation immigrants. More and more Hispanics are American-born. Hispanics are building families here, buying homes, and becoming more intricately integrated into American society. The growth of Hispanics along with other minorities has analysts convinced that by 2040 or 2050, the US will become a minority-majority country .
As the Democratic Party continues to suffer with record-low approval ratings for President Barack Obama and following a Republican take-over in Congress after the recent mid-term elections, the Republican Party is taking advantage and targeting Hispanic voters. The results of the 2014 mid-term elections show that Hispanics are voting more heavily Republican than past years.
In the Senate race in Colorado, where Hispanics make up 14% of voters, Republican Cory Gardner defeated the incumbent Democrat Mark Udall. Gardner actively campaigned in Hispanic neighborhoods emphasizing his interest in job creation and small government but opting to avoid the controversial issue of immigration. Also, the re-election of two Hispanic Republican governors (Susana Martinez in New Mexico and Brian Sandoval in Nevada) showed that the Republican Party can have success with Hispanic voters when they have strong candidates.
The 2014 mid-term elections showed that the difference in the gap between the percentage of Hispanic votes going to Democrats and the percentage going to Republicans is decreasing. In the race for governor in the state of Texas, which contains an electorate that is 17% Hispanic, the Republican candidate Greg Abbott won 44% of the Hispanic vote while his Democratic opponent Wendy Davis took 55%.
In our state of Georgia, Governor Nathan Deal was re-elected with 47% of the Hispanic vote. In the state’s recent senate race, Republican David Perdue took 42% of the Hispanic vote.
With the gap in the distribution of votes, it is important to consider the effect that this will have on the upcoming presidential election in 2016. In 2012, Barack Obama was re-elected with a staggering 71% of the Hispanic vote, but will the Hispanic electorate be as supportive of the Democratic Party in 2016? And if not, what can the Republican Party do to increase their share of the Hispanic vote?
While the amount of Hispanics voting republican has increased, the overall Hispanic vote still leans Democratic. In a survey to analyze how Hispanics viewed GOP presidential hopefuls Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, and Rand Paul, all four received higher “unfavorable” ratings than “favorable” .
The unfavorable view of Republican candidates is likely linked to the ultra-conservative stance that the Republican Party takes on immigration. Recently, the Republican Party has alienated the Hispanic electorate by voting against Obama’s executive action for undocumented parents and voting in favor of cancelling all funding to carry it out.
The GOP needs to make themselves more inviting to the Hispanic electorate if they want to see a large shift in the voting percentages.The Republican presidential candidates should focus on the creation of jobs, education, and immigration. These are the main concerns of the Hispanic electorate.
Hispanic unemployment in 2014 was nearly double that of non-Hispanic whites. By addressing this issue and the issue of the reduction of taxes to increase the creation of jobs, the GOP is likely to gain more Hispanic supporters.
Education is a major concern for the Hispanic electorate. Both foreign born Hispanics and U.S. born Hispanics consider education to be a major issue in the upcoming election. In a survey conducted by Pew Research Center, 97% of Hispanic immigrants and 91% of U.S. born Hispanics ranked education as an extremely or very important issue. 
Lastly, a less aggressive take on immigration policy would tremendously help the GOP with the Hispanic electorate. Although the difference between how important foreign born Hispanics and U.S. born Hispanics view the issue of immigration is wider than with other issues most Hispanics would like to see more tolerant immigration reform laws be passed . 
If the Republican Party can successfully address these issues, their chances at winning over a higher percentage of the Hispanic electorate would rise dramatically. But they must entice a community who is usually low in voter turnout to go to the polls.
Featured Image from Facing South via the Institute for Southern Studies