By S. Karthick Ramakrishnan
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Additional info for Democracy in Immigrant America: Changing Demographics and Political Participation
As the following analysis demonstrates, the rise in immigrant numbers has indeed led to a significant growth in the share of first- and second-generation immigrants in the national electorate and various state electorates since 1970. In many instances, however, the magnitude of these increases has been exaggerated, with overly optimistic rhetoric referring to immigrants as “sleeping giants” or “awakening gi- A Matter of Numbers 27 ants” in the American electorate. First, the proportion of first- and second-generation immigrants in the total population is considerably smaller today than it was during the early 1900s.
Granted, there have been several studies in the past twenty years that have examined naturalization rates across national origin groups (Portes and Mozo 1985; Liang 1994; Yang 1994; Johnson et al. 1999). However, questions of what happens after naturalization have been relatively rare (DeSipio 1996b; Uhlaner, Cain, and Kiewiet 1989; Tam Cho 1999). Indeed, most studies in political science approach the issue of immigrant adaptation only indirectly—not as a topic unto itself, but as part of a more general study of political participation among Latinos or Asian Americans.
Thus, there is no empirical justification to exclude the political behavior of whites when studying contemporary trends in immigrant electoral participation. Of course, there may be important national-origin differences among white immigrants, something to consider in the chapters that follow. This study therefore breaks new ground in the scholarly understanding of immigrant political participation by including whites as part of a cross-racial and cross-generational analysis. The literature on political participation among contemporary immi- Studying the Newcomers 19 grants in the United States has thus been steadily getting more voluminous, with political scientists assessing the extent to which traditional understandings of electoral participation are sufficient to understand voter turnout among first- and second-generation immigrants.