Sure, as Latinos become more assimilated into American society, their participation rates may increase—but their voting patterns will probably change as well. One recent analysis warns that Latinos’ share of the population by 2050 will be so large as to permanently damage Republicans’ prospects. Such scenarios, however, assume a static electorate that, in 40 years, votes the same way it does today. …

What’s more likely than race to account for Hispanic voting trends is income, a decisive factor in this election. The Obama campaign did a good job of portraying Romney as a Wall Street multimillionaire whose policies would favor the rich. Despite some conservatives’ belief that the Republican Party is capturing blue-collar America, Romney lost decisively among lower-income voters, who continue to vote Democratic in large numbers. Hispanic households fit into this demographic group: on average, their incomes are about 35 percent lower than the national average. Even more to the point is that Romney did terribly among voters who earned less than $50,000 a year, capturing just 38 percent of their votes—and over 60 percent of Hispanic households fit that income profile. …

But in most cases, income is a far better determinant of voting patterns than race is (blacks are an exception, for historical reasons). The voting of ethnic groups evolves significantly as their incomes change. The ancestors of millions of today’s ethnic voters came to America in the great immigration wave of the early twentieth century and voted reliably Democratic for generations. Over the last 30 years or so, their descendants’ voting allegiances shifted significantly. Many were first attracted to the Republican Party by an optimistic presidential candidate who campaigned on a convincing pro-growth agenda. That won over voters in 1980; it would do so today, too.