Priming the Sleeping Giant: The Dynamics of Latino Political Identity and Vote Choice



Latinos are commonly referred to as the “sleeping giant” in American politics, and interest in the political potential of this fastest-growing American ethnic group has risen in recent years. This article examines the influence of Latino political identity on voting preferences in the 2006 California gubernatorial election. A survey experiment linking Latino identity to support for either the Democratic or Republican candidate finds that vote preferences were influenced by group cues and that this effect was strongest in increasing support for the Democratic candidate among Latino Republicans and independents. The influence of Latino political identity is modeled as a two-step process of social identification and group influence, both of which are found to interact with prior partisanship. These findings support a model of political identity that views identity as malleable and subject to contextual influences.