North Carolina's Latino population is growing — but not its recent voter turnout (2024)

WAKE COUNTY, N.C. —When Josahandy Avila thinks about the 2024 presidential election, the word “excitement” does not come to mind.

As a first-generation Mexican American, her family is directly affected by state and federal immigration laws, and she’s concerned about reproductive rights. But at the presidential level, she’s still undecided —she is leaning toward President Joe Biden but is potentially open to a third-party ticket.

“I think that they’re just trying to give us what we want to hear,” she said of both Biden and Donald Trump. “Neither one of them are talking about issues that are very important to us. And it’s not only immigration, but it’s also education, health care — other things like the economy.”

As Democrats look to flip the battleground state of North Carolina back into the presidential win column for the first time since 2008, Latinos like Avila will be akey factor — but an increasingly tricky one.

The state’s Latino population hasincreased by 40%over the last decade — thelargest increaseof any other racial or ethnic group in the state.And Latinos make up more than 1.1 million residents —290,000 of whom are registered voters— in a state that Trump won by less than75,000votes in 2020.

But getting them to the voting booth may be more difficult this year than ever. Latino voter turnout actuallydecreasedin 2022 after having increased the past two midterm elections.And turnout was even worse in the most recent primary election, withless than 8%of Hispanic voters showing up, compared to nearly 30% of non-Hispanic voters.

Nikki Marín Baena is the co-founder and co-director ofSiembra NC, a grassroots political organization based in Greensboro focused on progressive issues and candidates. The organization has registered 3,200 Latino voters this year, with a goal of 5,000 before the election takes place.

She estimates that canvassers on her team talked to nearly 10,000 voters to reach that number, which they’ve achieved by fanning out to flea markets — known colloquially as “mercado de pulgas” —as well as shopping centers, gyms and grocery stores in five counties with large Latino populations.

“One of the things that I keep saying to the staff over and over again, is that this election is not between Biden and Trump. This election is between Biden and Trump and the couch,” Marín Baena said. “And the couch is looking like a really good option to a lot of people right now.”

Her organization is also focusing on hyper-local issues they believe affect people outside of election cycles, like labor rights and wage theft. One reason: She believes Latino voters in the state are less engaged with politics at the federal level this year.

“In 2020, the last presidential election, I think that it was so much clearer to people, kind of what we were up against and what the choice was and how the two candidates were different. I think that all of that felt sharper,” Marín Baena said. “I think people have forgotten 2020 a little bit, and I think that the constant news that we’re getting has made it so that everything runs together in a way that people don’t seem to be able to see as much difference between the two candidates.”

For 20-year-old Wake County resident Gema, who declined to give her last name, the most important issues this election are reproductive rights, the increase in complaints leading tobook bansin the state and apotential banon TikTok in the U.S.

She’s also unsure about whether she’s registered to vote.

“Honestly, like I don’t even know who to vote for just because it’s like, no matter what side you go to, there’s something iffy about it,” Gema said.

As one of anestimated 7 millionLatino residents ages 18 to 24 in the state, she’s not alone. A recentnational surveyby the Brookings Institution found that, although young Latino voters are more likely to support Democratic candidates, 37% of those under 30 report that Biden and Democrats “don’t care about the Latino community.”

It’s a dissatisfaction Republicans in the state are hoping to capitalize on. Although just2%of North Carolina Republicans identified as Hispanic in 2023, National Hispanic Outreach Director Sandy Moyer said the party’s messaging on economic issues and inflation is resonating with the community, particularly when it comes to the cost of gas, groceries and home ownership.

“What are people doing right now? They’re renting homes. Well, a lot of these Hispanics, what’s the American dream? To own a home,” Moyer said. “These are the things we talk to them about, and they say, ‘No, we’re having a big problem.’ The rent market is actually booming, but the housing market is not.”

NBC News also reached out to leadership with the state’s Democratic Party, who said they are investing earlier than ever in the state’s Latino community, adding in part:

“While Trump oversaw a 47% spike in unemployment among Latinos and is pushing to raise our health care costs, President Biden has delivered for our Latino communities, creating more than 400,000 good-paying jobs across our state and expanding access to affordable health care for more than 600,000 North Carolinians.”

They also pointed to a seven-figure campaign adspecifically targeted to Latinos watching the Copa America tournament. They said that spot will be airing across several battleground states, including North Carolina, where a tournament game is set for July 10 in Charlotte.

Meanwhile in Wake County, Gema’s mother, Zaza, who also declined to give her last name, said that although she’s worried both candidates are too old, she still plans to vote this year because she feels it’s her responsibility as an American citizen.

“Because it will make a difference,” she said in Spanish. “Poquito, pero una diferencia" —"a little, but a difference."

Aaron Franco

Morgan Radford

North Carolina's Latino population is growing — but not its recent voter turnout (2024)


What percentage of the population of North Carolina is Hispanic? ›

Since the 1990s, the Hispanic population has been the fastest growing population demographic in the state. By 2010, there were 825,000 Hispanic North Carolinians, or 8% of the overall population. Between 2010 and 2020, the Hispanic population grew by 40% to 1.1 million people (or 11% of the total population).

Why are there so many Hispanics in North Carolina? ›

The increased presence of Latino people in North Carolina is also accompanied by increasing Latino political, cultural, and economic influence in the state. Most Latino people began arriving in North Carolina after the passage of the 1965 Immigration and Nationality Act.

What is the largest ethnicity in North Carolina? ›

The 5 largest ethnic groups in North Carolina are White (Non-Hispanic) (61.7%), Black or African American (Non-Hispanic) (20.6%), Other (Hispanic) (3.66%), White (Hispanic) (3.29%), and Two+ (Non-Hispanic) (3.27%).

What county in NC has the most Hispanic population? ›

Counties with the largest Latino population include Wake, Durham, Mecklenburg and a few in the Piedmont Triad region: Guilford and Forsyth. See “Notes” at the end of this Profile for information about methodology and data sources.

What is the racial breakdown of North Carolina? ›

Race and ethnicity (White alone 61.6%; Black alone 12.4%; Hispanic 18.7%; Asian alone 6%; American Indian and Alaska Native alone 1.1%; Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander alone 0.2%; Some Other Race alone 8.4%; Two or More Races 10.2%). Diversity Index (61.1%, up from 54.9%).

What state has the highest Hispanic percentage? ›

The state with the largest percentage of Hispanics and Latinos is New Mexico at 47.7%. The state with the largest Hispanic and Latino population overall is California with 15.6 million Hispanics and Latinos.

Does Charlotte have a large Hispanic population? ›

Race and Ethnicity

15.3% of the people in Charlotte, NC are hispanic (134k people).

How many Latinos are in Raleigh, NC? ›

There were 128k Black or African American (Non-Hispanic) and 21k Asian (Non-Hispanic) residents, the second and third most common ethnic groups. 11.6% of the people in Raleigh, NC are hispanic (54k people). The following chart shows the 7 races represented in Raleigh, NC as a share of the total population.

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