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Polls have the power to buoy politicians and political parties. (Who wouldn’t be happy, after all, to know that they’re on track to win an election?) At the same time, though, they can dole out bad cases of political heartburn.

That surely is the case with a new Gallup poll that serves up the following finding: “Hispanics of all ages in the United States today are more than twice as likely to identify with or lean to the Democratic Party rather than the Republican Party.”

Leaders of both parties are well aware that, in the years ahead, Hispanics will make up an ever-increasing share of the nation’s voting-age population. About a third of all Hispanics in the United States are under the age of 18, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, compared with only about a fifth of all non-Hispanic whites. “As the disproportionately large number of Hispanics who are today younger than 18 reach voting age in the years ahead,” Gallup points out, “they will constitute a larger share of the young voting-age population, and therefore, of the electorate.”

The challenge facing Republicans is summed up by this chart:

Hispanic Political Party Affiliations

 

In the poll, 57 percent of Hispanics ages 50 to 64 and 59 percent of Hispanics 65 and older identified themselves as Democrats or said they lean Democratic. Only 21 percent of Hispanics in both of those age brackets identified themselves as Republicans or said they lean Republican.

No one should assume, however, that this all adds up to a slam-dunk for the Democrats. Historically, Hispanics have registered and turned out to vote at significantly lower rates than other segments of the population. In the 2012 presidential election, for example, only 48 percent of eligible Hispanics voted, compared with 64 percent of whites and 66 percent of blacks. What’s more, Gallup finds that younger Hispanics are more likely to identify with or lean toward the Republican Party than older Hispanics.

And then, of course, there’s the cardinal rule of all politics: Things change.

For now, however, Republicans may have their work cut out for them. Robert Blizzard, a partner at Public Opinion Strategies, which The New York Times has described as “the leading Republican polling company” in the country, observes that there’s no solution for the GOP “that doesn’t start with fixing the party’s problems with Hispanics.”

 

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