ORLANDO (CBSMiami/AP) – In Florida, during the 2012 presidential elections, more Hispanics showed up to vote than other states with large Latino populations.
According to figures released by the U.S. Census Bureau Wednesday, Hispanics statewide voted at a much higher rate than those nationwide in last year's presidential election.
Slightly more than 62 percent of Hispanic citizens in Florida voted in the 2012 presidential contest — significantly higher than the nationwide rate of 48 percent, according to the Census Bureau.
Florida's Hispanic turnout also surpassed that of Texas, which had a 38.8 percent rate, and that of California, which had a 48.5 percent rate. Florida has the nation's third-largest Hispanic population behind California and Texas.
In Florida, the Hispanic turnout was comparable to turnout by white voters and higher than turnout by black and Asian voters. Nationally, white and black voter turnout was significantly higher than Hispanic and Asian turnout.
Several factors explain the higher turnout rate for Florida Hispanics, including the reliability of Cuban voters, the competitiveness of the state between Democrats and Republicans and the overall growth in the Latino population.
"First and foremost, among Cuban-Americans, turnout always has been higher," said Eduardo Gamarra, a professor at Florida International University who also runs a research firm, Newlink Research. "So this is not a surprise."
Cubans are Florida's largest Hispanic group, accounting for just under a third of the state's 4.3 million Latinos. Cubans in Florida have traditionally voted Republican, but exit polls suggested that President Barack Obama made inroads in capturing their votes from Republican challenger Mitt Romney last November. Exit polls showed that Obama was favored by 3 of 5 Hispanic voters inFlorida.
The competitive nature of the presidential race in Florida also may explain why Hispanic turnout was higher than in Texas, where Republicans dominate, and in California, where Democrats have an advantage, Gamarra said.
"They were mobilized," Gamarra said. "We thought it was going to be so competitive, that they weren't going to call it to the very end."
As it happened, Florida's race wasn't called until four days later as election supervisors counted votes. But it didn't matter as Obama was able to win the Electoral College without Florida's 29 electoral votes.
Florida's Hispanic population also grew in the past decade from 16.8 percent to 23 percent ofFlorida's total population. The state currently has 19 million residents.
"Hispanics are a growing segment of the United States," said Thom File, a sociologist with the Census. "That growth is translating into more voters."
Florida's overall voter turnout in 2012 was 72 percent, according to the Florida Division of Elections. But the Census calculated overall turnout at 60.8 percent. The large difference can be explained by the fact that the Census is a survey and only counts respondents who voted in state and local elections. The Census survey also only captures voters living in the United States and doesn't include citizens living abroad or in institutions.
(TM and © Copyright 2013 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2013 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)
for more features.