The countdown to the 2022 midterm elections is on. As the clock winds down to Nov. 8, political campaigns are pulling out all the stops to get support. No, we’re not talking about campaign yard signs, door knocking, or rallies. But about efforts to connect with one of the fastest-growing voting blocs in the country: Latinx voters.
One in five Americans identify as Latinx. And in 2020, Latinx voters represented the second-largest electorate in the country, with an estimated 16.6 million people casting ballots. But that’s only about half of all eligible Latinx voters in the US. Meaning, there’s a lot more voting power this group can flex to influence legislation on everything from education, to gun control, to the economy.
Ahead of Election Day, experts talked to theSkimm about who the Latinx voting bloc represents, recent voting trends, and the important issues and states on the radar.
Who does the Latinx voting bloc represent?
There’s no simple answer. Latinx voters aren’t a monolith — aka a uniform or singular group. Mark Hugo Lopez, the director of Race and Ethnicity Research at Pew Research Center, said this group represents diverse backgrounds. People have origins from South America, Central America, the Caribbean, and Mexico. Some are immigrants, and many have been in the US for generations. That's on top of the differences in age, sexuality, education, political ideology, and economic status.
All of this info may or may not be new to you. But repeatedly, journalists, politicians, and analysts have portrayed the estimated more than 62 million Latinx people living in the US as one group — failing to explore their differences. Equis Research is working to change that narrative. The org has been working to learn and highlight the different experiences and political identities within the Latinx bloc.
“One of the ways in which Latino voters are not a monolith is in language,” Maria Isabel Di Franco Quiñonez, who’s a research manager at Equis Research, said. “Across the states that we are polling in, Spanish-speaking voters tend to be more undecided, less familiar with the candidates, and — in some states — report lower levels of [voting] motivation.”
In other words, it’s important for campaigns to meet Latinx voters where they’re at — and acknowledge the issues that they care about. But candidates have historically used a unified message or issue to try to appeal to this group — a tactic that can fall flat given that Latinx voters don’t vote as a monolith.
Political advocacy groups have also pointed the finger at campaigns’ lack of Latinx voter outreach and education efforts. And how outreach typically happens late in an election cycle — something that can make the Latinx population feel as an afterthought. But the strategy to gain Latinx support has started to change among some political parties (read: the GOP), and that’s got many asking…
Will Latinx voters ride the blue or red wave in 2022?
It’s too early to tell. Democrats have historically counted on Latinx voters to ride the blue wave. And that remained true in the 2020 presidential election. Then-candidate Joe Biden won 61% of the bloc’s vote. But that’s also a drop for a Democratic candidate when compared to 2016. Meanwhile, former President Trump gained Latinx support between the two election cycles.
The results may have come as a surprise to some people. Especially given Trump’s history of disparaging comments about Mexican immigrants and others. But it’s another example of the diversity among this group, according to Lopez. Still, Trump’s support in 2020 has political analysts asking, ‘are Latinx voters jumping from the Dem ship?’
Over the years, the GOP has embedded itself in Latinx communities across the country, including in Wisconsin and Florida. Republican organizers have focused on the issues important to these communities and have gotten a boost in support. Still, experts want you to keep a few things in mind before drawing any conclusions about how Latinx voters align politically, including…
Latinx support for the GOP isn’t new: “In some ways, Trump’s support is within the range you would expect given what we've seen historically all the way back to the 1980s,” Lopez said. Note: Cuban Americans in particular have leaned Republican for decades. Trump continued to appeal to this group with his anti-socialist messaging.
The impact of Latinx evangelicals: 19% of Latinx in the US identify as evangelical Christians. And among the American evangelical community, the Latinx population is the fastest-growing group. “That's a group that tends to be more conservative [and] leans more toward the Republican Party than other groups of Latinos,” Lopez said.
The Latinx gender gap: Trump’s popularity saw a boost in Latinx support in part due to Latinas. The reasons for that aren’t entirely clear. Equis Research is monitoring if it’s a trend that continues among GOP candidates this year.
Overall Latinx turnout: Each year, there are about 1 million Latinos who turn 18 and become eligible to vote. But despite this consistent boost, they still vote at lower rates than white, Black, and AAPI voters. Why? One major reason, a lot of these voters are young and still figuring out where they stand along the political spectrum.
Di Franco Quiñonez said polling isn’t revealing a clear national trend on whether the Latinx population is shifting to the right. And added that, “It's not fair to discount the importance of the candidates in each state and how they relate to the Latino electorate.” Meaning, how things play out for Latinx voters across the country still has a lot of room to change between now and Nov.
The states where Latinx voters could make an impact
Reminder: The fate of the US House and Senate hangs in the balance. And statewide elections are also on watch as 36 states hold gubernatorial elections. For some political analysts, Latinx voters could make all the difference in determining whether Republicans or Democrats take control.
“If it's a close election, Latinos could be very important. For example, where there might be a need for a recount or the margin of victory looks to be very close for a particular race,” Lopez said.
One analysis estimated that at least 11.6 million Latinx voters will turn out to cast ballots in November — mirroring their historic turnout in 2018. But that’s less than half of the eligible Latinx electorate. Still, don’t count out efforts to get out the vote. Especially in battleground states with a high Latinx electorate or toss-up races. Including:
Arizona: Political pundits are keeping close tabs on the Senate and governor’s race. Reminder: Biden narrowly won the state in 2020 — where more than 1 in 5 eligible voters are Latinx. More than 644,000 Latinx voters in AZ are expected to hit the polls in Nov.
Colorado: One of the eight congressional seats on the ballot is a toss-up. Meet: Colorado’s 8th congressional district. Latinx voters are expected to play a big role, especially since they make up 39% of the electorate in the district. Overall, an estimated 280,000 Latinx voters in CO are expected to turn out.
Georgia: Latinx voters helped turn the Peach State blue in 2020. But TBD if the 5% Latinx electorate can help swing another Democratic win. The US Senate race between Sen. Raphael Warnock (D) and Republican Herschel Walker is said to be very close.
Nevada: More than 165,000 Latinx voters in the state are estimated to turn out. Important because Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D) — the only Latina in the US Senate — is up for reelection this year. And could play a role in whether Dems hang on to the upper chamber.
New Mexico: More than 40% of the eligible voting population is Latinx — the highest in the US. And Republicans have been working to recruit voters to go red. But despite all that, one study found that the state will see a nearly 10% drop in Latinx voter turnout compared to 2018. The reasons why aren't clear.
Other states that pundits and civic orgs are keeping a close eye on include: Florida, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Wisconsin. And part of what happens in those states may hang on the issues they see on the ballot.
What issues are Latinx voters paying attention to?
Polls have shown that Latinx voters are putting the economy and cost of living front and center. This summer, UnidosUS and Mi Familia Vota — Latinx advocacy and civic engagement orgs — found that inflation is the No. 1 issue. Here’s a closer look at the top-ranking issues:
The economy: Equis Research found that while this has been a top issue since December, the percentage of voters who are reporting it as the No. 1 issue has increased to over 50% in states like Arizona and Nevada. It comes as some Latinx communities — among the hardest hit in terms of job losses during the pandemic — still try to recover. Note: In 2020, Latinx voters embraced the Republican Party’s take on the economy amid COVID-19. And that’s something that could continue into the midterms, depending on the candidates on the ballot.
Gun violence: Mi Familia Vota found this ranked as the second most important issue. Researchers from Equis Research also found Latinx communities are backing Dems’ views on gun reform. “This has been an issue where we have seen a gender gap in every state we've polled in — except for Pennsylvania,” Di Franco Quiñonez said. “We're just seeing Latinas resonate with this issue and the Democratic stances at really high rates.”
Abortion: For the first time in polling, abortion is a top five issue for Latinos. “It really makes us think that we're no different than any other electorate,” Irving Zavaleta, Mi Familia Vota national programs manager, said. But abortion doesn’t rank high in all states, according to Equis Research. Arizona and Florida were two states where abortion ranked lower among Latinos, as opposed to Texas and North Carolina.
The environment did come in at No. 6 in the UnidosUS and Mi Familia Vota survey. Note: The Latinx population often lives in high-polluted areas or areas prone to the effects of the climate crisis (read: the western and southern US). Now, orgs like the Latino Victory Project are putting climate change front and center. It launched #VoteLikeAMadre, a campaign that’s targeting Latina moms and encouraging them to own their political power.
“What we're telling Latina mothers is to come out and bring their abuelas, hermanas, amigas — the whole family — and vote for candidates that have a bold plan to combat the climate crisis that we're experiencing,” Nathalie Rayes, president and CEO of the Latino Victory Project, said. “We're saying make a pinky promise to your children that you will come out and vote.”
Rayes said campaigns like these help mobilize voters and highlight the importance of the Latinx vote in the midterms. “Latinos and Latinas are understanding the importance of our vote on issues that are critical to our community,” she said. “We are making a difference, and we are the margin of victory in all these critical states."
The midterm elections are right around the corner. Latinx voters could play a big role in what the political balance looks like at a time when the stakes seem higher than ever. Now, experts and organizers believe political campaigns need to engage the bloc in newer and more relevant ways.
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