Despite the growing importance of the Latino vote, the community continues to face a massive obstacle to building its political clout.

Just 51 percent of Hispanics are registered to vote, according to a Gallup survey released Wednesday. That number falls way behind the figure for the general public (78 percent), and even farther behind non-Hispanic whites (85 percent) and non-Hispanic blacks (81 percent).

It’s a problem that may, however, self-correct with time. Gallup attributes the low registration rate to the high number of immigrants in the Latino population, a feature shared with Asian Americans:

Asians and Hispanics in large part have lower rates of voter registration overall because many members of these racial and ethnic groups were not born in the United States. When it comes to voter registration, where one is born seems to make more of a difference than one's racial or ethnic background. That could be largely because many non-native-born people living in America are not U.S. citizens, and thus unable to register.

The data appears to bear out the assertion. U.S.-born Hispanics register to vote at a much higher rate than Hispanics as a whole -- 76 percent versus 31 percent. But since 36.2 percent of the county’s 52 million Latinos were born in another country, foreign-born nonvoters will likely continue to dilute Hispanic strength at the ballot box for a while.

That’s not the only thing holding Latino registration rates back, however. The Latino population is also disproportionately young and is concentrated in non-battleground states, where electoral stakes are not as high. More than half of Hispanics live in the three non-battleground states of California, Texas and New York, according to the Pew Hispanic Trends Project.

Pew noted last year that the number of Latino voters dropped from 11.6 million in 2008 to 11.0 million in 2010.

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  • 43%

    <blockquote><strong>43% </strong>is the percentage increase in the Hispanic population between April 1, 2000, and April 1, 2010, making Hispanics the fastest-growing minority group. Source for all statistics: <a href="http://www.census.gov/prod/cen2010/briefs/c2010br-04.pdf" target="_hplink">United States Census</a> </blockquote>

  • 50.5 million

    <blockquote><strong> 50.5 million</strong> is the size of the Hispanic population of the United States as of April 1, 2010, making people of Hispanic origin the nation's largest ethnic or race minority. Hispanics constituted 16.3 percent of the nation's total population. In addition, there are 3.7 million residents of Puerto Rico, a U.S. territory. </blockquote>

  • 132.8 million

    <blockquote><strong>132.8 million</strong> is the projected size of the Hispanic population of the United States on July 1, 2050. According to this projection, Hispanics will constitute 30 percent of the nation's population by that date. </blockquote>

  • 2nd

    <blockquote><strong>2nd</strong> is the ranking of the size of the U.S. Hispanic population worldwide, as of 2010. Only Mexico (112 million) had a larger Hispanic population than the United States (50.5 million). </blockquote>

  • 14 million

    <blockquote><strong>14 million </strong>is the size of the population of the Hispanic-origin population that lived in California in 2010, up from 11 million in 2000. </blockquote>

  • 96%

    <blockquote><strong>96%</strong> is the percentage of the population of Webb County, Texas, that was Hispanic as of 2010. This is the highest proportion of any county in the country.</blockquote>

  • 82

    <blockquote> <strong>82</strong> is the number of the nation's 3,143 counties that were majority-Hispanic.</blockquote>

  • 10.4 million

    <blockquote>10.4 million is the number of Hispanic family households in the United States in 2010.</blockquote>

  • 35 Million

    <blockquote><strong>35 million</strong> is the number of U.S. residents 5 and older who spoke Spanish at home in 2009. Those who <em>hablan español</em> constituted 12 percent of U.S. residents. More than half of these Spanish speakers spoke English "very well." </blockquote>

  • 26.6%

    <blockquote><strong>26.6%</strong> is the poverty rate among Hispanics in 2010, up from 25.3 percent in 2009, and 23.2 percent in 2008.</blockquote>

  • 14%

    <blockquote> <strong>14%</strong> the percentage of the Hispanic population 25 and older with a bachelor's degree or higher in 2010.</blockquote>

  • 47%

    <blockquote><strong>47%</strong> is the percent of the foreign-born population that was Hispanic in 2009.</blockquote>

  • 9.7 million

    <blockquote><strong> 9.7 million </strong>is the number of Hispanic citizens who reported voting in the 2008 presidential election, about 2 million more than voted in 2004. The percentage of Hispanic citizens voting went from 47 percent in 2004 to 50 percent in 2008. </blockquote>

  • 1.1 million

    <blockquote><strong>1.1 million</strong> is the number of Hispanics or Latinos 18 and older who are veterans of the U.S. armed forces.</blockquote>