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December 2000, Volume 7, Number 12

Elections 2000

The outcome of the presidential election remained in doubt in November 2000; Republicans retained control of the US House, but not the Senate. Before the election, Republicans held a 222-209 edge in the House and a 54-46 majority in the Senate; in the new Congress: there are 220 Republicans and 211 Democrats in the House, and the Senate is tied 50-50.

Senator Spencer Abraham (R-MI), the Chair of the Senate Immigration Subcommittee, lost his bid for re-election. Representative Lamar Smith (R-TX) Chair of the House Immigration Subcommittee was re-elected, and Rep. Silvestre Reyes (D-TX), a former chief of the US Border Patrol in El Paso, was selected to be chairman of the 18-member congressional Hispanic caucus.

About 51 percent of eligible voters, 104 million Americans, cast ballots. The closeness of the election in Florida focused attention on overseas voters. Some six million Americans live abroad, including 400,000 military personnel. Many of the immigrants in Florida are from countries in which elections are routinely disputed: Haitian immigrants in Palm Beach county were reportedly surprised by the delays and recounts.

The 2000 election was the first in which both major presidential candidates sprinkled their speeches in Hispanic areas with phrases in Spanish; both parties ran Spanish-language ads. Bush and Gore disagreed less about immigration issues than most recent major presidential candidates. In 1996, for example, Republican Bob Dole supported Proposition 187 in California, while Democrat Bill Clinton opposed it.

Hispanics cast about seven percent of US votes in 2000, up from five percent in 1996; an estimated 50 percent of Hispanic voters in 2000 were foreign-born. According to exit polls, Hispanics supported Gore over Bush by 62 to 35 percent, and Asians supported Gore over Bush, 55 to 41 percent. The Hispanic vote was contested most strongly in the Midwestern battleground states of Missouri and Wisconsin.

Whites supported Bush over Gore, 54 to 42 percent, while Blacks supported Gore over Bush, 90 to eight percent. Florida's Cuban American vote for Bush was 79 percent, which some experts said reflected a backlash against the Clinton administration's handling of the Elian Gonzalez case.

Reform Party presidential candidate Pat Buchanan, who got less than one percent of the vote, urged reductions in legal and unauthorized immigration. He ran a controversial ad that featured a man choking on a meatball after hearing on a news broadcast that English is no longer America's official language. The man called 911, and then passed out while listening to a menu of options for speakers of Spanish, Korean and other languages. Buchanan said: "In the long run, one of the great threats to this country is its tendency to dissolve along the lines of race, ethnicity and language." For more information:

Perspective. Some election observers noted that, although immigration is up, concern about immigration was down during the Fall 2000 elections. According to Gallup polls, immigration ranked 12th in a list of voters' concerns in 2000, down from second or third in some states in 1996. In California, the low unemployment rate and the growing number of Hispanic voters are credited with reducing the salience of immigration: The unemployment rate was 8.6 percent in Fall 1994, compared to 4.8 percent in Fall 2000.

One exit poll found that 55 percent of voters were in favor of a limited amnesty for unauthorized immigrants who have lived in the US for at least five years, 29 percent were opposed and 16 percent were undecided.

The Hispanic population of the US has doubled since 1980 to 32 million, and the number of Hispanics is projected to surpass the number of Blacks, now 35 million, by 2005. Hispanics are younger than average, which explains why Hispanics are 12 percent of the US population but account for 20 percent of US births. One-third of US Hispanics live in California, and another one-third live in Texas, New York and Florida.

The 2000 Hispanic Monitor study of consumer values and attitudes conducted by Connecticut-based Yankelovich found that 69 percent of Latinos say the Spanish language is more important to them than it was five years ago, and 64 percent of Latinos said they were concerned about fitting into US society. For more information: These results indicated reverse acculturation, an embracing of cultural heritage, according to the pollster.

Marjorie Valbrun, "Immigrants are finding holdup on election especially puzzling," Wall Street Journal, November 16, 2000. Suzanne Gamboa, "Texan elected Hispanic caucus chair," Associated Press, November 14, 2000. K. Connie Kang, "Asian Americans lean to Democrats, poll says," Los Angeles Times, November 10, 2000. Erica Werner, "Hispanic voters rush to polls," AP, November 9, 2000. Lee Romney, "Latinos in U.S. Increasingly Favoring Spanish," Los Angeles Times, November 8, 2000.