Are Latino voters really turning en masse to the Republicans? Not according to our data

(Jae C. Hong / Associated Press)

Are Latino voters really turning en masse to the Republicans? Not according to our data

Op-ed, Abortion, 2024 Elections

Maria Cardona and Matt Barreto

Dec. 28, 2023

A widespread and misleading story about the Latino vote has hit the media. It goes something like this: Latinos used to be monolithic base voters for the Democrats, but now they are breaking and increasingly fleeing to the Republicans.

As practitioners of Latino voter outreach, we have been skeptical of this herd narrative for years, and we have data to support our doubts.

Our community is dynamic, diverse and rapidly growing. It includes primarily English-speaking fifth-generation Mexican Americans, many of whom are proud veterans of our armed forces or lifelong union members; recently naturalized, largely Spanish-speaking Mexican and Central American immigrants, especially in the West and Southwest, for whom economic opportunity, education, health care, and immigration policies are particularly important; large Puerto Rican and Dominican populations in the ever-critical state of Pennsylvania; and long-standing families and recently arrived refugees from Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua who live in Florida and value democracy.

It is an exaggeration to say that Latinos have traditionally been a grassroots voice of the Democratic Party, as, for example, African Americans have been. Black Americans typically vote 9-1 for Democrats; the Latino vote for Democratic presidential candidates is significantly less skewed, about 2 to 1, with significant variations depending on the candidate.

For example, in 2004, George W. Bush won nearly 40% of the Latino vote, allowing him to capture Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada, Florida, and Virginia. Just eight years later, Barack Obama won more than 70% of the Latino vote, flipping five of those states.

We have long argued that Latinos, as a growing electorate with record numbers of first- and second-time voters, are responding to both persuasion and mobilization campaigns—that is, to efforts to convince them as decisive voters and to convert them as base voters. When Democrats invest early and heavily in delivering a message about hope, optimism and the American


broadly, Latinos support the Democrats, and the Democrats win.

In 2020, Biden won Latino voters by a 2-1 margin, which proved crucial to his victories in Arizona and Nevada. While some Latinos in South Florida and South Texas moved toward Trump, reports of Democrats hemorrhaging Latino voters have been greatly exaggerated.

In 2022, the same myth was promoted: GOP ops declared that a majority of Nevada’s Latino electorate would vote Republican and send Adam Laxalt to the US Senate. The actual result was the opposite: Nearly two-thirds of states’ Latino voters supported the reelection of Senator Catherine Cortez Masto and helped Democrats expand their majority in the Senate.

What do you say today? How do the parties’ positions on inflation, abortion, gun violence, and the fate of democracy play out among Latinos?

A recent survey of 3,000 Latino voters by UnidosUS shows that Republicans are struggling with this demographic:

Only 25% of Latinos say they believe the Republican Party cares deeply about their community, down from 35% in 2022. Seventy-one percent of Latino voters believe abortion should be legal, putting them at odds with Republicans about this issue. Latinos trust Democrats over Republicans on health care by a nearly 4-to-1 margin, which is not surprising given Trump’s determination to undo Obamacare. On nineteen policy issues, including the economy, inflation, small business, health care, abortion, gun violence, education and immigration, Latino voters have more confidence in Democrats by double-digit margins.

The poll also showed that immigration is still important to this electorate. Latino voters strongly support a path to citizenship for Dreamers and other longtime immigrants; advocate better, more orderly and humane policies on asylum and other forms of legal immigration; and to oppose brutal mass deportations.

Trump and other Republicans, meanwhile, are promising to end birthright citizenship, create detention camps and deport 12 million immigrants without a path to citizenship. Their positions could make immigration more salient to Latino voters. Showing a contrast to the Republican Party’s xenophobic rhetoric and track record on the issue would help Democrats garner critical votes, according to an Immigration Hub poll of Latino voters in battleground states and congressional districts.

After all, what has Trump or his party proposed to reduce costs for Latino families, increase their access to affordable health care, reduce gun violence in our communities, protect our rights and democracy, and respect our contributions to our country?

Latino voters are the fastest growing electorate in America, and Biden and his party must emphasize their strengths on the issues that matter to them. Democrats have a significant advantage among Latinos. They should use it.

Maria Cardona is a Democratic strategist and former communications director for the Democratic National Committee. Matt Barreto is a professor of political science and Chicano studies at UCLA, president of BSP Research and a consultant to the Democratic Party.


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