Why migrants are a crucial element of the campaign

By Daniel Connell. University of Melbourne

The anti-immigration rhetoric of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump is one of the most prominent elements of the 2016 election campaign.

From Trump's startling promise to build a wall between the USA and Mexico to his claim that Mexican immigrants are mostly criminals and rapists, Trump appears to be riding - and fueling - a wave of anti-immigration sentiment.

A very significant trend in the US over past decades is the increasing number of Hispanics and Asians migrating to the US. 

'Whites' are becoming a smaller proportion of the population

According to data from the Pew Research Center, the number of Hispanic Americans has increased seven fold from 8.092 million in 1965 to 56.975 million in 2016.

The number of Asian Americans increased nearly fourteen-fold from 1.326 million to 18.232 million in the same period. 

This means that the US is less 'white; than ever before, even though the total number of whites living in the US has also increased over the past 50 years. 

In 2015, whites made up 62 per cent of the population, down from 84 per cent in 1965.

This trend so far broadly favours the Democrats

The Republicans have lost the Hispanic vote in the past five presidential elections and Hispanics represent a larger proportion of the voting block than they did in the past. 

As we can see in this graph, the percentage of Hispanic voters in presidential elections doubled from five per cent in 1996 to ten percent in 2012. 

This trend seems likely to continue, with Donald Trump struggling to appeal to Hispanic voters.  

The Asian voting block is still small. Only three per cent of voters in the 2012 US election were Asian, but that is an increase from just one per cent in 1996. Furthermore, Asians have shifted from a moderate voting block to one which mainly votes Democratic. 

As we can see in this graph, in 1996 - the last time the Republicans won the Asian vote in a presidential election - only 44 percent of Asians voted Democratic. But in 2008 and 2012, the Asian Democratic vote increased to 63 and 72 per cent respectively. Opinion polls indicate that Asian Americans do not like Trump or his views on immigration.

Opinion polls indicate Trump is more popular than his rival Democract presidential candidate Hillary Clinton among white Americans and Clinton is more popular with non-white voters.

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