FLORIDA — While some indicators point to Florida's Puerto Rican demographic becoming the state's largest by 2020, some experts say this shift may not have major political implications on election results that year in the swing state.

  • Study by Hispanic Federation: Puerto Ricans largest Hispanic group in Florida by 2020
  • Puerto Ricans did not turn out in droves to vote in 2018 elections
  • Despite recent shift, Cubans still had largest percentage of Hispanic vote in 2018
  • More Local Politics stories

A 2016 study by the Hispanic Federation showed Florida's Puerto Rican population trending towards becoming the largest Hispanic group in Florida by 2020.

We already saw it in the November 2018 elections. Democratic and Republican candidates in Florida each vied for the Puerto Rican vote.

Despite being one of the largest Hispanic groups in Florida, they didn’t turn out at the polls in droves the way both parties hoped they would.   

Vilmari Nazario, who moved from Puerto Rico four years ago, says she's a dedicated voter, but admits that's not the case for everyone she knows. 

“On the flip side, I also know some people that tell me, no, I have to get in line, it’s too tedious, and they don’t even get registered,” she said. 

The Puerto Rican community only continues to grow in Florida, especially after the influx following Hurricane Maria. But that growth may not translate into an ideological shift for Florida.

“Just because a demographic group is rising to the fore and rising to prominence doesn’t necessarily mean that will translate into automatic election gains from one party to the other,” said USF professor Josh Scacco. 

"Demographics aren't necessarily destiny"

Some experts predicted Puerto Ricans could be key in Democratic victories during the November elections, but it proved not to be the case. 

“Demographics aren’t necessarily destiny here, and Democrats have a lot of work here with the Puerto Rican community," Scacco explained. "In 2018, [Democrats] were essentially out-hustled and outvoted by the Republican Party among the key demographics that came out to vote in the midterm election."

He added that the continued growth of the Puerto Rican community doesn't necessarily indicate things could be different for the 2020 elections, especially if they are not mobilized.

“All of this is mitigated by the fact that every day, more people move to Florida, and it’s not just members of immigrant communities. It’s also older individuals as well that are moving to Florida,” he said. “Older individuals at present are strongly supporting the Republican Party.” 

Until now, Cubans have been the largest Hispanic group in Florida. 

Despite the sudden demographic shift, Cubans still had a larger percentage of the vote in 2018 compared to Puerto Ricans.

Nazario says she hopes more Puerto Ricans will realize the importance of voting. 

“If we don’t get mobilized to vote, we can’t even act like we want better services, better candidates, better opportunities, if we don’t get educated and get out there and vote,” she said.