How we can explain the voting patterns of certain groups in the 2012 presidential election and 2010 Congressional elections? Accordingly, how do we measure public opinion?

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

While there were many different factors to reflect different voting patterns of certain groups in the 2012 Presidential election and 2010 Midterm elections, I think that one voting pattern of a specific group that has to be analyzed would rest in the trend of Latino voters.  In some respects, I think that the Latino vote was seen in one way in the 2010 Mideterm election and resulted in another shift in the following Presidential election.

In the 2010 Midterm Congressional elections, the Latino vote was significant. A specific way in which this was shown was in the ascendance of Latino candidates to high office.  Top offices went to Latino candidates, and this was significant:

For the first time ever, three Latino candidates—all of them Republicans—won top statewide offices. In New Mexico, voters elected the nation’s first Latina governor, Republican Susana Martinez. In Nevada, Republican Brian Sandoval won the governor’s race and became Nevada’s first Hispanic governor. And in Florida, Republican Marco Rubio won the U.S. Senate race.

It must be noted that these were statewide offices that went to Republicans.

Such "top of ticket" wins might have caused Republican strategists to read the tea leaves and think that the Latino vote was in their favor.  Significant cultural trends would point to this.  Cultural values in many parts of the Latino community tend to reflect so - called Republican notions of the cultural good. In addition, the voting pattern of these top of the ticket offices clearly point to a Republican sentiment.  Finally, in swing states like Florida, the voting patterns of Latino voters favored Republican candidates.  To a great extent, this voting pattern in 2010 might have indicated that the Latino vote could be parlayed into a Republican vote in the Presidential Election two years later.

As the Presidential election indicated, this perception was faulty. Latino voters demonstrated themselves to be a "swing" vote in displaying how much power they held in determining elections on a national level. The Latino vote swung hard in favor of the Democratic candidate.  The voting patterns were decisively in favor of President Obama and served as an ultimatum to the Republican party:

"Republicans are going to have to have a real serious conversation with themselves," said Eliseo Medina, an immigration reform advocate and secretary-treasurer of the Service Employees International Union. "They need to repair their relationship with our community. ... They can wave goodbye to us if they don't get right with Latinos."

The hard- line stance that the Romney campaign struck on immigration reform in what was perceived as targeting Latino voters resonated at the voting booth. Terms like "self- deportation" never succeeded in winning over this swing group and the results were decisively in favor of the President.

Public opinion is seen in voting patterns such as these.  In 2010, the public opinion regarding Latino voters was that this group was "in play" for Republicans.  In 2012, the public opinion turned to how the Republican party had to "get right with Latinos."  It is in this way where public opinion is understood in light of voting patterns. Such patterns of behavior can indicate what segments of the public is feeling as well as the mood of social acceptance or rejection of a particular period in time.  Voting patterns and electoral behavior help to give a portrait of social temperament and belief systems.