MU Professor On Missouri Hispanic Demographics And The Election
Missouri’s Hispanic population is small but growing. Hispanics only account for 3.5% of the state’s population, but that’s an increase of 79% since 2000.
The Democratic party has successfully courted Hispanics, and that strategy paid off with Presidential wins in western states like Colorado, Nevada and New Mexico.
But Missouri’s Hispanic population is still too small to have much of an impact, according to Dr. Marvin Overby, who teaches political science at the University of Missouri.
“Missouri, for reasons that have to do with the nature of our economy, has lagged behind in terms of Hispanic population numbers in the state,” Overby said. “That has meant that the Democrats don’t have that core base to build upon that you find Democratic parties in other states increasingly taking advantage of.”
In some ways, Missouri is the yin to Colorado’s yang. Missouri, with its small Hispanic population, has become more Republican in national politics in recent year. Colorado, with its large and growing Hispanic population, has embraced the Democrats.
“I think long term, demography is destiny,” Dr. Overby said. “We’re going to see more Hispanic growth in the Missouri population, but it’s going to take a while until those numbers get large enough to where they will reach a tipping point in the Missouri population where it’s going to be a critical mass for greater Democratic success at national level politics in the state.”
Mitt Romney beat Barack Obama in Missouri by 54 to 44 percent. But out of six statewide races - U.S. Senate, Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Attorney General, Secretary of State and Treasurer - Democrats won five.
Dr. Overby says it is not as simple as Missourians embracing bipartisanship.
“At the state level, Republicans have just had a hard time building up a farm team of people ready to run for state office,” Overby said. “Some of this is just idiosyncratic to this particular time and place.”
Democrats have done a good job fielding moderate candidates like Governor Jay Nixon, Overby says. Statewide Democratic officeholders do not have to take a stand on polarizing national issues or associate themselves with President Barack Obama.
“You can sort of pick and choose which of those national issues and which of those national personalities you want to get close to, and that makes it more difficult for the opposition party to paint you as someone who is too close to Obama or too much of a liberal or too much of a Democrat,” Overby said.