There’s No Such Thing As The ‘Latino Vote’

There’s No Such Thing As The ‘Latino Vote’

Just 42 days to go, Joe Biden cut out his work for him with Latino voters. So says his senior advisor, Symone Sanders, who had to answer for why Biden seems to be losing ground among Latinos. According to a current one Latino Decisions / Poll by the National Association of Elected and Appointed Latino Officials65 percent of Latinos plan to vote for or lean to Biden, but that’s still 14 percentage points less than the 79 percent of Latino voters who said they supported Clinton at the polling station national election poll in 2016.

It is true that Latino voters are generally more democratic than Republicans, a trend that has only accelerated in recent years. But they don’t vote as a single block (in 2016, at least 1 in 5 Latino voters still supports Trump): How Latinos Vote in FloridaFor example, the way Latinos vote in the Southwest or Northeast can be very different. These differences are particularly significant because of the size of the Latino populations in a number of major swing states.

Top 10 states by proportion of voting age population who are Hispanic or Latino of any race

StatusHispanic portion of CVAP
New Mexico42.2%
New Jersey14.4
new York14.3

Shaded states are states with a greater than 1 percent chance of voting in the 2020 presidential election. This is evident from the FiveThirtyEight forecast from 4:00 p.m. on September 21.

Source: American Community Survey

The size and diversity of this group makes it even more difficult for any candidate – even a Democrat – to take Latino voters for granted. On the one hand, many of the political differences we see among Latino voters – in terms of gender, age, and religion – are similar to those we see in other large electoral groups, but again there are unique considerations. For example, how long Latino voters lived in the US or where they came from. And this year, depending on how some of these differences manifest themselves within the Latino community, the “Latino vote” could be split into a number of key states – with Biden benefiting in some cases and Trump in others.

The distance from the immigration experience is important

One of the biggest factors determining a Hispanic voter’s political identity is how long their family has lived in the United States. For example, foreign-born Latinos and the US-born children of Latino immigrants tend to be more democratic than Latinos whose families have lived in the US for at least three generations. First-generation Hispanic Americans were 12 percentage points more likely than third-generation or higher-generation Hispanic Americans (84 percent versus 72 percent) to support Clinton in 2016, although both groups strongly supported Trump, according to the Latino Decisions poll.

“Many Latino Americans can trace their family history back to before the United States was the United States,” says Melissa Michelson, Professor at Menlo College studying Latino Politics. (According to the 2019 Pew Research Center, 32 percent of registered Latino voters are third generation or higher National survey of Latinos.) “And they have a very different perspective than people who are closer to the immigration experience.”

Gary SeguraAs a co-founder and senior partner at Latino Decisions, both economic and cultural factors play a role. First, higher-generation Hispanic Americans are more likely to have higher incomes, which drives them to the Republican side of the aisle. But their Hispanic identity also tends to be weaker. For example a 2017 Pew Report found that only about a third of self-identified Hispanics whose families had lived in the United States for at least three generations had parents who took them to Hispanic cultural celebrations or who often talked about their heritage during their childhood, and relatively few mostly lived in Hispanic or Latin American neighborhoods. According to this Pew report, Latinos are more likely to marry people of other races and ethnic backgrounds than whites or blacks – meaning Latinos with deeper family roots in the U.S. are also more likely to marry people of mixed ancestry. Put simply, the longer a Hispanic family has lived in the United States, the more likely they are to have assimilated – and more likely to vote like white Americans who turn to the Republican Party.

On the flip side, foreign-born Latinos and their US-born children – groups that each account for about a third of the registered voters in Latino per pew – tend to have stronger identities than Latinos or immigrants. This, in turn, makes it more likely that they will be knocked out by President Trump Rhetoric against immigrants, which political scientist Betina Cutaia Wilkinson said FiveThirtyEight, “has definitely brought Latinos together more than we’ve seen in the past.”

In a survey of the same group of first generation immigrants, conducted before and after the 2016 elections, political scientists examined Michael Jones-Correa and James McCann found that respondents’ fear of deporting friends or family members increased after Trump took office, regardless of whether they were personally at risk of being removed from the country. And first and second generation Hispanic Americans may be particularly likely to have a close friend or family member who is non-national or even undocumented.

Proportion of respondents who say each issue is most important to the next president

problemShare of respondents
Healthcare costs30th
Racism / Discrimination26th
Jobs / wages21st
Criminal justice reform17th
Stop Trump16
Immigration reform16
Discrimination against Latino / Immigrantsfifteen
Climate changefifteen
Lower taxes10
Mass shootings / weapons policy8th
Stop Biden7th
Border security7th
Reduce crime6
Improve education6
Affordable housing6
College expenses4th
Women’s reproductive health4th
Lower government spending3
Limit abortion2

The respondents could give up to three answers.

Source: Latino Decisions / National Association of Elected and Appointed Latino Officials

However, the importance of immigration to Hispanic voters can be overstated. In this Latino Choices / NALEO poll, immigration was ranked the sixth most important issue that Latinos wanted to address by the next president (that is, “Combating Racism and Discrimination” ranked third). Instead, Latinos’ priorities tend to mirror those of the general population: Coronavirus came first, followed by health care.

Similarly, Latinos who speak Spanish as their main language are more likely to vote democratically than those who speak primarily English. It is possible that this is just a by-product of the immigrant divide. Spanish speakers are also likely to be closer to the immigration experience. Mark Hugo LopezPew’s director of global migration and demographic research conducted a multivariate analysis and found that after generation control, language was not a statistically significant determinant of Hispanic bias.

Michelson noted, however, that language is closely related to assimilation and media consumption. Spanish-language news in particular encourages viewers to understand themselves as part of a pan-ethnic Latino group living in the United States, Michelson said. This type of reporting can affect the way people think about issues like immigration, even if they are not personally concerned.

Ethnicity also contributes to partiality

Latinos tend to identify with their specific nationality first and as Latino second. The Hispanic experience can vary greatly depending on where you come from. Puerto Ricans may not have too much in common with Mexican Americans, who may find it difficult to relate to Cuban Americans. This, in turn, can affect how and why they vote.

Take Cuban Americans, for example. At just 4 percent of the national Latino population, they don’t seem like an influential group at first glance – but they are disproportionately concentrated in the crucial swing state of Florida, where they make up a large number (29 percent) of the Hispanic population. After Fidel Castro and his communist regime came to power in 1959, Cuban Americans fled to the United States in droves and embraced the Republican Party, which was seen as tougher for communism during most of the Cold War. In addition, many Cuban Americans blamed Democratic President John F. Kennedy for the failed Bay of Pigs invasion in 1961.

But Cuban Americans were drift towards Democrats In the most recent elections in 2016, they essentially split their support between the two candidates. As it turns out, this is due to the change of generations: loud an analysis by EquisLabsVoters who personally fled Cuba remain heavily Republican, while the growing proportion of US-born Cuban Americans are actually more democratic.

However, there is growing evidence that Trump is making a comeback with Cuban Americans this year. “Trump has reversed Obama’s policy towards Cuba and taken a tough stance towards Venezuela,” said the political scientist, whose socialist dictator Nicolás Maduro is considered a modern Castro Dario Moreno. “That improved his standing with Cubans.” Indeed a new one EquisLabs survey of Florida, Trump found Biden a leader among Cuban Americans, 54 percent to 37 percent.

Other Latin American ethnic groups lean toward Democrats to varying degrees. Mexican Americans, 81 to 15 percent of Clinton supporters of Clinton in 2016 Latino rulings, basically single-handedly represent the narrative that Latinos are core Democratic voters because of their overwhelming number: 63 percent of the national Latino population is Mexican, and that In swing states like Arizona, Nevada, and Texas, the number is even higher. According to Florida International University Professor Eduardo GamarraThe group evolved into Democrats in large part because of the clear contrast between the parties on racial and immigration issues.

Like the Mexican Americans, Puerto Ricans are solidly democratic: Latino decisions have shown that they support Clinton with 79 to 19 percent. However, there is a feeling that Puerto Ricans have not yet reached their Democratic potential. “Puerto Rico’s political turnout on the island is over 80 percent,” said Segura, “but Puerto Rico’s mainland voter turnout is lower than any other subgroup of Latinos.” And according to Moreno, Puerto Ricans in Florida (where they make up 21 percent of the Hispanic population as opposed to just under 10 percent nationally) are less democratic than theirs Northeast counterparts. While Trump has one stressed relationship with the CommonwealthAccording to Moreno, this may not be particularly important to the Puerto Ricans in Florida, as many have left the island precisely because of their negative views of the Puerto Rican government.

There is little research into the political leanings of the remaining Latin American nationalities – mainly because they are too small to be easily queried. Taken together, however, they can have a small but significant vote: For example, Central American ethnic groups such as Salvadoran Americans, Guatemalan Americans, Honduran Americans, and Nicaraguan Americans together make up a decent percentage of Nationals (9 percent) and Floridians (11 percent) Hispanic population. Clinton won 82 percent of Central American voters in 2016 according to Latino decisions, and Biden could do even better this year. Central Americans “have been really hurt by the president’s immigration policies,” Moreno said, for example through his efforts to end temporary protection. “Here the Democrats will have some options.”

Finally, several experts told FiveThirtyEight that Trump’s tough stance on Venezuela seems to make him popular with Venezuelan-American voters, but they also warned not to make too much of it. According to Gamarra’s poll, Trump is still below 50 percent of Venezuelan Americans. More importantly, they represent just a drop in the bucket for the wider electorate: they make up just 3.7 percent of the Hispanic population in Florida and 0.7 percent of the Hispanic population nationally.

Latino evangelicals are a swing group

Religion is another rift within the Latino community that is often very important politically – though not in the way one might expect. Current data from the Pew Research Center shows that just under half (47 percent) of Hispanic adults were identified as Catholic in 2018, while 24 percent were Protestant and 23 percent were religiously disaffected. That means Latinos are about as likely to be non-religious as the American population as a whole – and the rise in the proportion of people not religiously affiliated is in large part at the expense of the Catholic population, which has lost ground in the past 10 years.

The fact that Latino Catholics make up a smaller percentage of the population is a potential disadvantage for Biden as they are Hispanic Catholic voters one of the most democratic religious groups, and Biden’s Catholicism may be a motivator for some Catholic voters this year. In general, however, the fact that Catholic voters seem more likely to go into the non-religious rather than Protestant column is not a bad thing for Democrats, as non-religious voters steadily move into the democratic camp with no real public contact with the party or the Candidate and Latinos are no exception. “An increasing proportion of Latinos identify as liberals, and this is being driven by the growth of the ‘nones’,” he said Juhem Navarro-Rivera, the director of political research at Socioanalítica Research, a consulting firm specializing in Latin American and Hispanic politics.

But the group among which Biden struggles the most – and where Trump has possibly the greatest success in finding or maintaining support – is among the evangelicals who make up the vast majority of Latino Protestants. Navarro-Rivera and other experts told us that Latino evangelicals are more right-wing than Catholic or non-religious Latinos, although they are nowhere near as conservative as white evangelical Protestants. According to the 2016 election night poll by Latino Decisions, 60 percent of Latinos who identify as born again Christians (a group that strongly overlaps with evangelicals) supported Clinton, while 37 percent supported Trump. In contrast, 82 percent of Hispanic Catholics supported Clinton and only 15 percent supported Trump.

“Latino evangelicals are more conservative, but they’re not heavily Republican – really, they’re kind of a swing group,” Navarro-Rivera said.

However, it has been difficult for Republicans to gain a foothold with this group as a proportion of Protestant Latinos has stabilized for at least the past ten years. Not to mention, the party largely endorsed Trump’s rhetoric against immigrants, and that could give some Latino evangelicals a break. “Immigration is a complicated subject for [Latino evangelicals]because they are generally more conservative but many are immigrants or work with immigrants, ”said Navarro-Rivera. “So there are these cross pressures that make the way they approach these issues difficult.”

Latinos are also broken down by age and gender

The rising proportion of non-religious Latinos underscores another divide that could be of great concern to voters: age. As with non-religious Americans as a whole, non-religious Latinos are predominantly young. And the general population is also young: According to a Pew analysis from 201861 percent of Latinos were under 35 years of age. Most young Latinos are also born in the United States, which means they are eligible to vote.

Young latinos tend to be more liberal – but less loyal to the Democratic Party – than older generations. However, it is difficult to unravel how many of these differences are unique to Latinos or just a reflection of larger divisions within the electorate. “I think the worldview of many younger Latinos is shaped by the feeling of failure of the Democratic Party,” he said Bernard Fraga, Professor of Political Science at Emory University studying Latino Politics. “In their lifetimes they have seen failure to implement immigration reform and have made many compromises and settled for second best.” According to Fraga, this explains why young Latinos are more dissatisfied with mainstream Democratic candidates than their parents or grandparents. And it underscores why it might be difficult for Biden to reach this group. As we wrote during the Democratic primary, Sanders benefited from his campaign’s extensive outreach to Latinos – especially young Latinos – in states like Nevada and California, while Biden struggled to connect with that group.

Gender is an example of another department that matters to Latinos – but perhaps not in ways that differ from Americans as a whole. In recent years, The turnout among Hispanic women has increasedand at the same time they become an even more reliable democratic electoral bloc. Lopez noted that education could, at least in part, fuel that shift: the percentage of Hispanic women with four years of college degrees has increased from just 14 percent about a decade ago to 22 percent. Hispanic men will also increasingly go to college, Lopez said, but not to the same extent as women. However, he also found that these trends are not significantly different from those of women voters as a whole. And most of the experts we spoke to agreed that this is likely an area where Latinos are largely influenced by the same forces that shape the entire American electorate.

The diversity of the Latino community not only shows why so many voters still vote Republicans, but it also underscores the need for campaign mobilization efforts tailored to different corners of the Latino community, even for candidates like Biden, who are a solid majority of Hispanics coordination is almost guaranteed. With efforts such as cultivating Cuban-American voters, Trump arguably did this more effectively than Biden who it was criticized for months for its lack of a comprehensive plan to reach Latino voters. It will almost certainly not be enough for Trump to win the Latino vote immediately, but he can potentially keep a larger stake in the Latino vote.


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