Social media and the politics of Mexican-American voting behavior

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By Christine Garza We live in a technological age. Unless you're one of those people who's too cool for Facebook, you wake up to it, eat lunch with it, get bored of it, and then check it again ten minutes later. Politicians in particular use social media to gain widespread attention, further their agendas, and organize. We're inundated with news and information. In our social culture we accept that everyone has a computer and everyone uses the Internet. At least, you think they do. According to a study conducted by Robert Fairlie at the University of California at Santa Cruz, over 85 percent of white children in the U.S. have access to a home computer, and over 77 percent have access to the Internet at home. However, just over half of Latino children have access to a home computer and approximately 40 percent have Internet access at home. "We are clearly not all a ‘nation online,'" said Fairlie. "And race is a key part of who’s online and who isn’t." So how is our political climate affected when members of the largest minority in the United States lack access to technology? The Latino population comprises the largest and fastest-growing minority in the United States, with the Mexican-American population making up over 70 percent of the country’s overall Latino population, according to the most recent Census. Between 2000 and 2010, the Latino population grew by 43 percent. The non-Latino population grew at a relatively slower rate over the decade – by about 5 percent. These findings, along with recent polling of Latino voters, highlight the fact that Latinos are a huge and often untapped political market. According to America's Voice Online, only about 60 percent of the adult Latino population are registered to vote, compared to 70 percent of the black population and 74 percent of the white population. So, 40 percent of us aren't even registered to vote? If we as a Mexican-American electorate remain uninformed about the political and socioeconomic issues that directly affect us, we forfeit the right that this country extends to us as members of a democracy. We're bypassing our right to elect officials who will voice our political concerns, which only perpetuates our identity as a disenfranchised and disengaged minority. If access is linked to our overall political awareness, can we blame our voting behavior on the fact that we have less computers in our homes? Not necessarily. According to News Taco, "The smartphone penetration rate for Latinos is among the highest of all ethnic groups - 45 percent - which means almost half of Latinos with cell phones use them for the Internet." Thus, the dilemma. We may have less access to computers, but we're using our smartphones to access Facebook, Twitter, and other social media outlets - where we can choose what pages to like and who we want to follow. And that, I think, is the rub: bridging the gap between using technology and using it to our advantage. As a community, is it possible to shift our collective social media focus from the trivial to the political? Questions? Comments? Pissed off? Feel free to send your love letters and/or hate mail to cx@sacurrent.com.

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