Data map shows how newly naturalized citizens could swing the 2012 election

October 2, 2012

Swing states such as Nevada, Florida, Colorado and Virginia are the most likely to be affected.

The USC Center for the Study of Immigrant Integration (CSII) today released an interactive, online mapping tool and report identifying which states have the most newly naturalized immigrants — a potentially critical group of voters for the November election. This innovative, user-friendly tool can help electoral organizers target their resources for more effective mobilization efforts. The report and mapping tool are available at: http://csii.usc.edu/RockTheNaturalizedVote.html

The map shows how new citizens are located in many key areas across the nation that may be considered to swing the electoral outcome. These include Nevada, Florida, Colorado and northern Virginia.

This voting group is almost 4 percent of the voting-age citizen population in the United States. While this number may seem small, the researchers note that the margin of victory in the 2004 election — the last time an incumbent was up for reelection – was only 2.6 percent in Nevada, a state where 5.1 percent of the voting age citizen population now consists of recently naturalized immigrants.

“We hope that the data inspires a more civil, balanced and solutions-oriented conversation about immigration—one in which realistic solutions are proposed and agreed upon so that voters can concentrate on other issues such as the economy,” said Dr. Manuel Pastor, director of USC’s Center for the Study of Immigrant Integration.

The interactive website includes data at the state level but also uses the most recent 2011 American Community Survey (released on September 20, 2012) to generate estimates at the sub-state level. The tool launches just before the deadlines for voter registration in many states — and given that one important gap in electoral participation comes as a result of limited registration by naturalized citizens, the data could help target some last-minute efforts.

More generally, the data helps illustrate the potential importance of the immigrant vote and the report that accompanies it suggests how immigration, while not the dominant issue, can often be a key (or threshold) concern for these voters.

The online mapping tool (http://csii.usc.edu/rocktheNATURALIZEDvote_maps.html) provides users with a detailed explanation of the geographic location, country-of-origin, and race/ethnicity of the naturalized voting-age population at a level not previously seen. Based on these data from the U.S. Census and the American Community Survey, the maps show newly naturalized citizens at the state and sub-state levels, using Public Use Microdata Area (PUMA) geographies.

The website is accompanied by a report, “Rock the (Naturalized) Vote: The Size and Location of the Recently Naturalized Voting Age Citizen Population,” which further explains the importance of this analysis as well as the methodology used to generate the estimates at the state and sub-state level.


Contact: Andrew Good at 213-740-8606 or gooda@usc.edu.