Continuing on the recurring theme of overselling Hispanic electoral importance, consider the demographic profiles of four groups of states, as laid out at CNN's election center site:
1) 'Swing' states considered too close to call where margins in '00 and '04 were less than 5%. These include CO, FL, IA, MI, MO, NV, NH, OH, and VA.
2) Competitive McCain-leaning states. They are AR, GA, IN, LA, MT, NM, NC, and WV.
3) Competitive Obama-leaning states. They are ME, MN, NJ, OR, PA, WA, and WI.
4) Electorally safe states that are effectively out of play for the '08 Presidential election. They are the other 26 states and DC.
Following is a table showing the population percentages by race/ethnicity for the four groups of states:
Or, shown dichotomously as states that are competitive and are uncompetitive heading towards November:
The major media narrative goes something like this: "Hispanics only comprise X% (virtually always overstated) of voters nationally, but they account for a larger percentage in several key swing states." One can be forgiven for thinking that means Hispanics are overrepresented in swing states and thus more electorally important than their national numbers alone suggest.
As the tables above show, however, that is not the case at all. Whites, casting nearly 80% of votes nationally, are an even more important force in states that are competitive. This inflated electoral influence comes at the expense of Hispanics and Asians, who are more heavily concentrated in states that have already been decided. Blacks are slightly more concentrated in competitive states than in uncompetitive ones.
Keep in mind that electoral votes don't mirror racial demographics. Whites, being older, wealthier, and more civically-minded than blacks and especially Hispanics, comprise a greater share of the vote in a state than their numbers alone would predict. Blacks vote slightly less than their numbers would suggest, and Hispanics much less so--slightly less than half of what their population numbers would suggest. So Hispanic votes are unlikely to comprise more than 5% of the total votes cast in the 'toss-up' swing states, and closer to 3-4% in the competitive states that lean toward either McCain or Obama.
Another thing to take note of is that more than half of the swing states' Hispanics are in Florida, where Central and South American illegal immigration across the US-Mexican border takes a backseat to Cuban issues among Hispanic voters. If Florida is removed, the Hispanic percentage in the swing states drops to 6.4%.
When you read or hear about the putative disproportionate importance of the Hispanic vote in the swing states, know that it is untrue.