In the lead-up to the 2018 midterm elections, much was made of the possible impact of the Latina/o population, whose share of eligible voters has increased significantly but whose voter turn-out has remained relatively low. According to the Pew Research Center, from 1986 to 2018 the number of eligible Latina/o voters nearly quadrupled from 7.5 million to 29.1 million, representing a record high of 12.8% of all eligible voters. Four million Latina/os became eligible to vote just between the 2014 and 2018 midterm elections. About 75% of the growth since 2014 is attributable to U.S.-born Latina/os coming of age, while other sources of growth include naturalization of foreign-born Latina/os, as well as from Puerto Ricans moving to the mainland United States. But Latina/o voter turnout in midterm elections has not kept pace, with 2.9 million Latina/os voting in the 1986 midterms and only rising to 6.8 million voting in the 2014 midterms, with a decrease between 2006 and 2014 in Latina/o turnout relative to the total Latina/o population. Speculation around a possible surge in Latina/o voter turnout hinged on the election of Donald Trump, who ran a presidential campaign based on anti-immigrant, anti-Latina/o rhetoric, and whose policies in office have targeted immigration from Latin America. But did the surge in Latina/o voters actually materialize?
Early results seem to indicate that Latina/o voter turnout did increase significantly over previous midterm elections. With Latina/os accounting for 12.8% of all eligible voters, exit polls estimated that Latina/os were approximately 11% of all votes cast, almost equal in proportion to their percentage of all eligible voters. In the days after the election, Rep. Ben Lujan, chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, claimed that Latina/o voter turnout had increased by 174% from the 2014 midterms, and 157% for African Americans, whose rates of voter turnout have typically been higher than for Latina/os. Over a quarter (27%) of Latina/os that voted in the 2018 midterms said they were voting in a midterm for the first time, compared to 18% for African Americans and 12% for Whites.
In the 2018 midterm elections, Latina/os voted largely in favor of Democratic candidates. In congressional races, 69% of Latina/os voted Democratic, compared to 29% for Republican candidates. The percentage of Latina/os who voted Democratic in congressional races was much higher than the percentage of Whites who voted for Democrats (44%), but lower than the percentage of Asian Americans (77%) and African Americans (90%) who voted for Democrats. There was, however, a 10-point gap in voting preference in congressional races between Latino men and Latinas, with 73% of Latinas voting Democratic compared to only 63% of Latino men. White women and White men also had a 10-point gap, with 49% of White women and only 39% of White men voting Democratic, compared to only a 4-point gap between African American women (92%) and African American men (88%).
 The American Election Eve Poll from Latino Decisions suggests a correlation between increased Latina/o voter turnout and the rhetoric and policies of the current federal administration. Of Latina/os polled, 73% of voters felt angry and 72% disrespected by things Trump has said or done, compared to 79% and 83% for African Americans, and 57% and 47% for Whites. Thirty-three percent of Latina/os polled believed that Trump has a negative impact on the Latina/o community, and another 44% believed that Trump is a racist whose policies are intended to hurt the Latina/o community, compared to only 18% of Latina/os who believed that Trump has a positive impact on the Latina/o community. Poll results indicate that these beliefs may extend to the Republican party in general: 78% of Latina/os polled expressed belief in the statement, “Trump and the Republicans are using toxic rhetoric to divide us from one another.” Likewise, only 27% of Latina/os polled felt that the Republican Party is doing a good job of reaching out to the Latina/o community, compared to 33% who felt that the Republican Party does not care much about Latina/o voters, and another 37% who felt that the Republican Party is hostile to Latina/os.
In addition to increased Latina/o voter turnout in the 2018 midterm elections, Latina/o candidates also fared well in the midterms. Ten Latina/os—nine Democrats, and one Republican—were elected to their first term in Congress, raising the total number of Latina/os in the House and Senate to a record high 42—38 in the House and four in the Senate. Among the Latina/os elected in congressional races were Sylvia Garcia and Veronica Escobar, the first Latina congresswomen from Texas, and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the youngest woman ever elected to the House of Representatives. Despite these gains, Latina/os are still underrepresented in both the House and Senate. With Latina/os accounting for 17.8% of the total United States population, they would need to hold 77 seats in the 435-member House (about twice as many as they currently hold) and 18 in the 100-member Senate (more than four times as many as they currently hold) in order for Latina/o representation to become proportionate.
In the run-up to federal elections, predictions are regularly made that Latina/os will emerge as a powerful voting bloc, but until the 2018 midterm elections, Latina/o voter turnout tended to remain low. With increased Latina/o voter turnout in the 2018 midterms, political analysts are already speculating on the impact Latina/os could have in the 2020 election. The Pew Research Center, for instance, predicts that the Latina/o share of eligible voters will rise to 13.3% of all eligible voters by 2020, making Latina/os the largest ethnic minority group in the U.S. electorate for the first time. Combined with African and Asian Americans, people of color will account for approximately one-third of all eligible voters in the 2020 election. Foreign-born voters are also predicted to account for one in ten voters in the 2020 election, the highest number since 1970. However, the question of how many Latina/os will turn out to vote is difficult to predict—as in midterm elections, Latina/o voter turnout in presidential elections has also been low relative to the number of eligible Latina/o voters, with the number of eligible Latina/os who did not vote exceeding the number who did in every presidential election since 1996. Though Latina/o voter turnout increased significantly in the 2018 midterm elections, both major parties will need to direct serious outreach efforts to the Latina/o community if they want to harness the power of Latina/o voters. Latino Decision’s Election Eve poll suggests one way to do this is to nominate a Latina/o presidential or vice presidential candidate—according to the poll, 44% of Latina/os would be much more likely and 12% more likely to vote Democrat if the Democratic Party nominates a Latina/o for either President or Vice President.