Turning conservative opinion around on the contentious issue of immigration will not be easy. But without such a shift, conservative candidates will find it difficult to win national and statewide elections as they face an electorate that includes a rapidly expanding share of Hispanic voters.
Hispanics are the fastest growing demographic group in the United States. Numbering more than 50 million, Hispanics constitute 16 percent of the overall population; and their proportion will continue to increase even if all immigration—legal and illegal—were to cease today. On average, Hispanics are younger than non-Hispanic whites (with a median age of 27 compared with 42), give birth to more children (2.4 to 1.8), and enjoy greater longevity (81 years to 78). These factors guarantee that the Hispanic share of the population— and the electorate—will continue to rise. What is more, 22 percent of all children in the United States today are Hispanic, and the majority of them are the offspring of at least one foreign-born parent. This fact alone guarantees immigration will remain a potent issue among Hispanic voters for a generation or more.
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