Study outlines voting disparity for Asian and Latino populations

August 29, 2012, UC Davis

Although Latinos and Asians make up half of California's population, they register to vote in far smaller percentages, a University of California, Davis, study reports. The voter registration gap means that these ethnic groups have proportionately less say in the electoral process compared to the general population.

"During the past decade, Latino and Asian voter has increased by nearly 40 percent, dramatically outpacing growth in general registration, yet there remains a significant gap between Latino and Asian registration and their proportion of California's overall population," said Mindy Romero, a researcher at the UC Davis Center for Regional Change. "Addressing these continuing gaps in Latino and Asian registration is a critical step in expanding engagement in California's ."

The study is the first in a series of reports to be issued on election issues in coming months by the California Project, a new nonpartisan data repository and research initiative of the UC Davis Center for Regional Change.

The study looked at Asians and Latinos only, using data from the Statewide Database, the redistricting database for California, aggregating it to the county and state level. Latinos and Asians were identified analyzing U.S. Census surname lists commonly associated with these groups.   

In 2010, 38 percent of the state's population was Latino and 13 percent was Asian.

Between 2002 and 2010, voter registration for Latinos increased 40 percent raising their proportion of the general registered electorate to 21.2 percent, while Asian registration increased by 39.4 percent to 8 percent of the registered electorate. General population registration, as a whole, increased by only 14 percent during the same period.

But despite these gains, an additional 520,000 and 800,000 Asians would need to register to vote in order to raise the registration rates of these groups to the statewide average percentage of voters recorded in the 2010 election, which was 77.5 percent.

The study breaks down registration by county: Los Angeles, Riverside and San Bernardino counties account for some of the largest gaps between the Latino percentage of general registered voters and their proportion of the . Asians, however, have the largest gap in the Bay Area counties of San Francisco, San Mateo and Alameda as well as Sacramento County.

Explore further: Voter registration policy may depress minority participation in electoral politics

More information: The full report is available on the UC Davis California Civic Engagement Project website.

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