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Demographics and politics: latinos’ role in the presidential election

Latino american political science professor miguel centellas seeks to educate the student body about the latino culture’s politics before election day.
Cain Madden

Political science professor Miguel Centellas said he sometimes wonders why Ole Miss celebrated 50 Years of Integration. He observed how whites and blacks sit on separate sides in the Student Union, how they cluster together while tailgating at the Grove and last week he counted only three black people on the Square.

Although the actions are unintentional, Centellas said he believes these groupings affect how students shape their political views. Family and peer groups are the top two political influences.

With Election Day two weeks away and issues concerning the Latino community an important topic among many politicians, Centellas advises student voters to become more aware of their stereotypical views, since they can influence their own politics.

“Latinos come from a diverse group with a lot of different histories, thus it is difficult to say what they all believe in,” he said. “It would be like saying all Christians believe in a certain thing or all whites believe in a certain thing.”

He said that one assumption most students have deals with immigration. According to the Pew Research Center (PRC), Latinos rank education as the most important topic concerning this election, with immigration being the least important.

According to Centellas, second-generation Latinos, American-born children of at least one immigrant parent, make up the majority of the Latino population, so the issue of being deported is not as significant to them.

He said Latinos instead use the topic to measure how much a political candidate favors the community.

“When Hispanics are talking about immigration, it’s about, ‘Do candidates think Hispanics are American or deserve equal opportunities like Americans?’” he said. “People who talk about deportation or enforcement of the borders a lot are often being perceived as not liking the Hispanic community.”

After answering an informal survey regarding their beliefs about the Latino community, most of the students found that they had some stereotypical views shaping their politics.

Brea Burkett, a Democratic communication sciences and disorder major, was surprised to hear that immigration is the least important topic. She acknowledged that knowing the statistics will help her in this election.

“I thought they would be more concerned about being here, but now I can understand why education would be the most important, because they have children here and would like for them to have a good future,” Burkett said.

Centellas said most students view Latino voters as opposers to the voter identification laws, but according to the PRC, 71 percent of Latino registered voters support the law.

Centellas said this support is partially because all Latin American countries are currently under an electoral system that requires them to show photo identification. Also, stricter immigration laws created a trend in the Latino community of always carrying identification to avoid deportation.

“After years of being forced to show identification in a way that other minority groups don’t, I can see them saying, ‘Now it is everyone