An Illinois political observer says future elections in the state will be decided by Hispanics and residents of the Chicago suburbs. A breakdown of the 2010 Census shows they’re fast growing populations, and both will be wildcards in future elections, says professor Kent Redfield at the University of Illinois Springfield. The population in the collar counties – the counties adjacent to Cook County -- grew by 30 percent from 2000 to 2010, and the Hispanic population in Illinois grew by 25 percent.

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Redfield says Downstate is getting more Republican and Chicago more Democratic. That makes the suburbs a swing vote. The political landscape there is getting more diverse as minorities move to the suburbs from Chicago and from such countries as Mexico.

“It is still the heart of the Republican vote but it is more diverse in terms of population and it’s more diverse politically,” Redfield says.

He says Republicans have an opportunity to gain ground with Hispanics, who tend to be Catholic and socially conservative, but only so long as they change their message. “Got to talk to them in terms of jobs and family values and those things and not get caught up in the hot national rhetoric about immigration,” Redfield says.

However, Hispanics in Illinois tend to vote significantly less than whites and blacks. Redfield says that’s because they are an immigrant population less likely to be U.S. citizens, and that will change in the future once they’re integrated into the culture and producing generations born here.

“New immigrants, new citizens, less engagement in the community, less culturation, those are factors,” Redfield says.

(Copyright WBGZ Radio/