Majority of Latino voters out of GOP’s reach, new polls

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Amelia Alonso Tarancon, who immigrated from Cuba 14 years ago, at her home near Fort Lauderdale, Sept. 16, 2022. (Saul Martinez/The New York Times)

It has been nearly two years since Donald Trump made surprising gains among Spanish voters. But according to a new poll by The New York Times and Siena College, Republican dreams of a major reshuffle of Latino voters drawn to GOP stances on crime and social issues have failed to materialize.

The poll — one of the largest unbiased surveys of Latino voters since the 2020 election — found that Democrats had gripped the majority of Latino voters, driven in part by women and the belief that Democrats are the party of the working class remained. In general, Spanish voters tend to agree with Democrats on many issues – immigration, gun policy, climate. They are also more likely to see the Republicans as the party of the elite and with extreme views. And a majority of Spanish voters, 56%, plan to vote for Democrats this fall, compared to 32% for Republicans.

But the research also shows worrying signs for the future of the Democratic message. Despite that comfortable lead, the poll shows Democrats are doing much worse than in the years leading up to the 2020 election. Younger male Hispanic voters, especially those in the South, appear to be drifting away from the party, a shift propelled by deep economic concerns. Weaknesses in the South and among voters in rural areas could stand in the way of crucial victories in Texas and Florida in this year’s midterm elections.

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Anthony Saiz, 24, who reviews content for a social media platform in Tucson, Arizona, said he had to take a second job baking pizza in a beer garden to make ends meet. Saiz voted for Joe Biden in 2020 and considers himself a Democrat because he grew up in a Democratic household. But under Biden, he said, the cost of living seemed to have doubled for him, even as he moved to a smaller apartment.

“The choices he has made for the country have put me in a bad position,” he said of the president.

How Latinos will vote is a crucial question in the November election and for the future of American politics. Hispanic voters play a critical role in the battle for control of Congress, making up a significant proportion of voters — as much as 20% — in two of the states likely to determine control of the Senate, Arizona and Nevada. Latinos also make up more than 20% of registered voters in more than a dozen highly competitive House races in California, Colorado, Florida, and Texas, among others.

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Democrats have long assumed the growing Latino electorate would condemn Republicans, and the prospect of an increasingly diverse electorate has fueled concern among conservatives. The 2020 election results — in which Trump gained an estimated 8 percentage points among Spanish voters compared to 2016 — began to change the outlook for both parties. The Times/Siena poll shows that historical loyalties and beliefs about core issues remain entrenched, although some shifts are notable.

While the majority of Spanish voters side with Democrats on social and cultural issues, significant shares share the same beliefs as Republicans: more than a third of Spanish voters say they agree more with the GOP on crime and policing, and 4 in 10 Hispanic voters worry that the Democratic Party has gone too far on race and gender. Spanish voters see economic issues as the main factor determining their vote this year and are evenly split on which party they agree with more on the economy.

Hispanic voters in America have never been a united voting bloc and have often puzzled political strategists trying to understand their behavior. The 32 million Latinos eligible to vote are recent fourth-generation immigrants and citizens, urban and rural farmers, Catholics and atheists.

Both parties have been full of commotion and high hopes for Latino voters, raising and spending millions of dollars to attract their support, but there is little concrete unbiased data to back their speculation. The research provides insight into a section of the electorate that many strategists have called the new swing vote, and whose views are often complicated by subgroup contradictions.

Dani Bernal, 35, a digital marketer and entrepreneur in Los Angeles, said she was switching back and forth between candidates from both sides, based largely on their economic policies. Her mother, she said, had arrived in Florida from Bolivia with only a bag of clothes and $500 to her name, and had been able to thrive there because taxes were low and living expenses were affordable. Economic issues play a big role in her decisions, Bernal said.

“I’m registered as a Republican, but I’m just like Florida: I wave back and forth,” she said.

Republicans perform best with Hispanic voters living in the South, a region that includes Florida and Texas, where Republicans have won significant victories over Latino voters in recent elections. In the South, 46% of Latino voters say they plan to vote for Democrats, while 45% say they plan to vote for Republicans. By contrast, Democrats lead 62% to 24% among Spanish voters in other parts of the country.

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A generation gap can also lead to more Republican gains. Democrats, the poll found, benefited from particularly strong support among older Latino voters. But 46% of voters under the age of 30 favor the way Republicans are handling the economy, compared to 43% who prefer Democrats.

Republicans also have strength among Latino men, who prefer Democrats in the midterm elections but say, by a margin of 5 points, they would vote for Trump if he ran again in 2024. Young men in particular seem to be shifting towards Republicans. They are a major vulnerability for Democrats, who maintain just a four-point lead in the midterm exams among men under 45.

The Times/Siena poll gives a glimpse of Latino voters who have traditionally supported Democrats in the past but plan to vote for Republicans this fall: they are disproportionately many voters with no college degrees who are focused on economics, and they are rather young, male and born in the United States, but living in heavily Hispanic areas.

Immigration remains an important issue for Spanish voters, and both parties have a special appeal. While Democrats have pushed for overhauling the legal immigration system and providing a path to citizenship for many immigrants living in the country illegally, Republicans have focused on tackling illegal immigration and using border politics to build their base. strengthen.

Democrats retain a significant advantage on legal immigration, with 55% of Spanish voters saying they agree with the party, compared to 29% saying they agree with Republicans. But the GOP has gained a foothold by ramping up anti-immigration rhetoric and policies: 37% of Latino voters support Republicans’ views on illegal immigration. And about a third support a wall along the US-Mexico border.

Amelia Alonso Tarancon, 69, who immigrated from Cuba 14 years ago and now lives outside of Fort Lauderdale, Florida, wants Congress to grant legal status to workers illegally resident in the country who have been in the country for decades. But she agrees with Republicans on their tough stance against illegal immigration. The issue motivated her to vote for Trump even though she is a registered Democrat.

“I know this country is a country of immigrants, but they should immigrate legally,” she said. But Alonso Tarancon said she stopped supporting the former president after he refused to hand over the presidency, fueled the January 6, 2021 attack on the US Capitol and “took all those documents” to Mar-a-Lago, his Florida residence. .

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“I don’t consider myself a Democrat or Republican — I’m on standby now until the next election,” she said.

In their effort to attract new voters, Republicans have often criticized Democrats for being too “awake.” The accusation resonates with many Spanish voters, with 40% saying the party has gone too far in pushing an “awakened” ideology about race and gender. But there is a clear split: 37% believe the party has not gone far enough. And nearly 1 in 5 Spanish voters surveyed said they weren’t sure if Democrats were too awake — a term that doesn’t translate easily into Spanish.

On many social and cultural issues, Spanish voters remain aligned with the Democratic Party.

The majority, 58%, are positive about the Black Lives Matter movement, while 45% say the same about the Blue Lives Matter movement, which defends law enforcement. A majority believe that abortion should be legal in all or most cases; even among Republican Hispanics, 4 in 10 are against the Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe v. Wade. Support for Black Lives Matter and abortion rights is largely driven by young people. When asked who they agreed with more on gun policy, 49% said Democrats, while 34% said Republicans.

Republicans trying to bring Latino voters to justice have repeatedly portrayed Democrats as elitist and maladjusted, but the poll suggests the strategy has had limited success.

Nearly 6 in 10 Spanish voters continue to see the Democrats as the party of the working class. While white Republicans uniformly see themselves as the workers’ party, even some Latin American Republicans believe the mantle belongs to the Democrats. And there was no evidence in the poll that Republicans outperformed college-educated Latinos or Hispanics living in rural areas, two key demographics they’ve targeted for their reach. One in four Spanish voters in rural areas do not yet know who they will vote for in November.

Democrats have been roundly criticized for their embrace of the term Latinx, which is intended to be more inclusive than the gendered words Latino and Latina. Previous surveys have shown that only a small minority of Spanish voters prefer the term. But the poll suggests Latinx isn’t the most polarizing issue; only 18% said they found the term offensive.

POLL METHODOLOGY: The Times/Siena poll of 1,399 registered voters across the country, including a cross-sample of 522 Spanish voters, was conducted by telephone using live operators from Sept. 6-14. The margin of sampling error is plus or minus 3.6 percentage points for the entire sample and 5.9 percentage points among Spanish voters. Crosstabs and methodology are available to all registered voters and for Hispanic voters are available at TNZT.com.

© 2022 The New York Times Company

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