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A Mile-Wide Gap: The Evolution of Hispanic Political Emergence in the Deep South


  • * Direct correspondence to M. V. Hood III, Department of Political Science, School of Public and International Affairs, 104 Baldwin Hall, University of Georgia, Athens, GA 30602 〈〉. The data used in this article are available on request from the authors. The authors thank the Carl Vinson Institute of Government at the University of Georgia for helping to fund this research project. An earlier version of this article was presented at the 2004 Citadel Symposium on Southern Politics.


Objective. Prior to the 1990s, the size of the Hispanic population in the Deep South was negligible. Since that time, states in this region have experienced an explosive growth in members of this ethnic group.

Methods. Georgia and the Carolinas are among five states that maintain registration and turnout files by ethnicity. We make use of these political data in conjunction with demographic information from the Census to create a snapshot of Hispanic political emergence in the southeast.

Results. A sizable gap exists between the size of the Hispanic population in the southeast and levels of political participation on the part of Latinos. Much of the explanation for this observation centers on the fact that the bulk of recent migration to the region has been by Hispanics who are not U.S. citizens. Participation rates among Hispanic citizens, however, were also found to lag behind those of other racial groups in the region.

Conclusions. Although it is likely that Hispanics will become a sizable political force in the Deep South, it should be noted that the gulf between latent political influence and actual political power may take quite some time to close.