Why Latinos May Decide the 2024 Election

Why Latinos May Decide the 2024 Election
(Illustration by The Epoch Times, Shutterstock, Getty Images)
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Democrats, Republicans, and independents can all agree on one thing ahead of the 2024 election cycle: They want the Latino vote.

Jaime Florez, the Hispanic outreach and communications director for the Republican National Committee, told The Epoch Times the Latino vote is more important in 2024 than ever before.

Hispanic or Latino Americans make up about 19.1 percent of the country’s population, according to census data. Latinos now outnumber black Americans as the largest minority group in the United States.

“The Latino vote is going to determine who’s in the White House and what parties control ... Congress,” Rafael Collazo, the director of the UnidosUS Action Fund, told The Epoch Times. The group formally endorsed President Joe Biden in May.

Voices from both left and right say Latinos were overlooked in past elections. In 2024, everyone is hustling to secure Latino votes.

Observers who spoke with The Epoch Times said Latinos are willing to vote for candidates who show them how they can make a difference in their lives.

Growing Power

An April report from the Pew Research Center concluded that Latinos will make up 13 percent of eligible voters in the 2024 election. That’s up from 4 percent in 1996.

According to Pew, 61 percent of Latinos are either Democrats or tend to lean toward the Democratic Party. By comparison, 83 percent of black voters—11 percent of eligible voters in 2024—are Democrats or lean Democratic.

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In a 2021 assessment of recent elections, Pew determined that former President Donald Trump won 38 percent of the Latino vote in 2020. In 2016, he won 28 percent.

Latinos are split on the 2024 presidential race, according to a Times/Siena poll published in May. Nationally, 33 percent support each major party candidate, 16 percent are undecided, and 13 percent say they will vote for Robert F. Kennedy Jr.

The Latino vote is essential to victory in Arizona and Nevada. According to current census data, one-third of the population in each state is Latino.

In Arizona, a longtime Republican stronghold, Democrats won statewide victories in the 2020 and 2022 races. Emmanuelle Leal-Santillan, national communications and media director for the progressive organization Somos Votantes, told The Epoch Times that the Latino vote was “paramount” to those victories.

In Nevada, the Times/Siena poll found that Latinos prefer former President Trump to President Joe Biden by a 10-point margin. In Arizona, the opposite is true. In both states, Mr. Kennedy has more than 13 percent support.

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A man carries a U.S. flag and Mexican flag at a rally in Los Angeles on May 1, 2019. Latinos are now the largest minority group in the United States. (David McNew/Getty Images)

Inflation, Abortion, Immigration

The top issue for Latino voters in 2024 is the U.S. economy, surveys show.

Like most Americans, Hispanic voters are concerned about the rising cost of living. Mr. Leal-Santillan said Latinos don’t care about the Dow Jones Industrial Average—they’re worried about personal finances.

In the past decade, prices for housing, automobiles, food, energy, and child care all rose significantly. According to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the U.S. consumer price index increased by 22 percent between April 2020 and April 2024.

Ray Mancera, the League of United Latin American Citizens’ national vice president for the Southwest, told The Epoch Times that Latinos’ economic concerns center on kitchen table issues: home ownership, groceries, and gas. Older Latinos worry about access to social benefits such as Medicaid and Medicare; younger ones fret about job availability.

The league, or LULAC, is the country’s oldest and largest Latino civil rights organization. While it hasn’t endorsed a candidate in the 2024 presidential race, it tends to lean Democrat.

In 2024, Democrats are homing in on abortion access to motivate their voters. Republicans are centering on immigration.

Mr. Florez, who also works with the Trump campaign, said Latinos in border states are “feeling all of the crisis and tragedies” related to what he called the Biden administration’s open border policy. Illegal immigrants compete for jobs, drain public resources, and commit crimes that affect the Latino community, he said.

Monet Bacs, Arizona’s strategic director for the Libre Initiative, whose group focuses on Latino outreach from a center-right perspective, told The Epoch Times that Latino voters want a secure border and immigration reform that provides policy clarity for legal immigrants.

Mr. Collazo said UnidosUS’s experience and polling show that immigration is complex for Latinos.

He said many Latino families include citizens and illegal immigrants. Those families acknowledge the contributions to the local economies by those he called long-term undocumented members of the community. They are sympathetic to legitimate asylum-seekers, but “they want to see an orderly process.”

However, Mr. Collazo said that doesn’t mean Latinos are unconcerned about the high number of border crossings, nor do they favor so-called open border policies.

As for abortion, religious culture plays a role in how Latinos view the issue. Religious Latinos are most often Catholic.

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Church members gather on Good Friday in the Brooklyn borough of New York City on April 7, 2023. Most religious Latinos are Catholic. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Mr. Mancera said older voters will likely follow Catholic dogma and oppose measures to expand access to abortion. Mr. Florez said religious beliefs will keep Democrats from using abortion to motivate Latinos.

Young Latina women and an increasing number of their loved ones favor expanding abortion access out of their own economic interest and self-interest, Mr. Collazo said.

Ms. Bacs, in her conversations with voters, said abortion isn’t a priority issue for Latino voters in Arizona. Mr. Leal-Santillan, who works in Nevada, disagrees. He said the Biden administration’s work on abortion access is a winning message for Democrats.

Direct Appeals

Both the Biden and Trump campaigns have placed big bets on Arizona and Nevada. Both made appearances and are sending surrogates to campaign in those states. Moreover, both created wings of their campaigns to specifically focus on Latinos.

The Biden campaign is using its sizable financial resources to open Latino voter outreach offices and run multimillion-dollar ad campaigns in English and Spanish. The campaign introduced its “Latinos con Biden–Harris” drive in March.

Biden campaign representatives didn’t respond by press time to a request for comment from The Epoch Times.

During his March appearance in Phoenix, President Biden went to a Mexican restaurant and told Latino voters he wouldn’t have won the 2020 election without their support.

Then, the president underscored low unemployment rates for Latinos and his efforts to help small businesses and reduce gun violence. Former President Trump, President Biden said, wants to undo all of the Biden administration’s work and slash taxes on the rich.

As abortion issues took center stage, Vice President Kamala Harris visited Tucson, Arizona, in April to lay the blame for the state’s temporary total abortion ban at the feet of former President Trump.

In May, First Lady Jill Biden spoke at a commencement ceremony for a community college in Mesa, a suburb of Phoenix.

On June 13, the Biden campaign introduced what it called a “seven-figure” advertising campaign in English and Spanish, pitching the president to Latino voters in battleground states. The advertisements feature President Biden speaking directly into the camera, along with images of Latino families.

“I know what it’s like to struggle. I know many American families are fighting every day to get by,” President Biden says in the ad. “That’s why no one, especially a billionaire like Donald Trump, will stop me from fighting to lower costs for food and rent because hard-working families deserve a chance to get ahead.”

The former president’s Latino Americans for Trump campaign underscores how the Trump administration’s immigration policy served Latino interests. Additionally, it aims to convince voters they were financially better off under President Trump than they are today.

“Under Biden, Latino Americans have been left behind, burdened with higher prices, soaring interest rates, and lower wages,” a Latinos for Trump announcement on June 9 said.

Mr. Mancera said Hispanic men sometimes back former President Trump based on his reputation of action, decisiveness, and strength. These qualities appeal to the Latino idea of masculinity.

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Latinos vote at a polling station in El Gallo Restaurant in Los Angeles on Nov. 8, 2016. Latinos will make up 13 percent of eligible voters in the 2024 election, according to the Pew Research Center. (David McNew/Getty Images)

However, Mr. Mancera said some voters are souring on the former president’s macho appeal.

Mr. Collazo acknowledged that the Latino community includes a significant minority of Republican voters. Some, he said, vote that way because of perceived negligence by the Democratic Party.

In 2020, he said, some Latino men probably sided with former President Trump out of fear that Democratic politicians would extend COVID-era lockdowns that kept them out of work. A bigger factor, he said, is that Latinos are often unaware of what any politician is doing for them. This, in his view, is because of a lack of direct outreach.

Mr. Florez said the Democratic Party takes Hispanic voters for granted. It isn’t performing the door-to-door outreach, nor is it highlighting accomplishments Latinos care about.

Ms. Bacs said that based on her experience in the field, she believes many Latinos are swing voters open to persuasion. She said that candidates from the right can succeed by appealing to traditional values of the Latino community.

To win from the right, Ms. Bacs said, politicians must demonstrate how they will address Latinos’ issues with the economy, immigration, health, and educational access.

Republicans, Mr. Florez said, can win Latinos over by showing respect, listening to their concerns, and communicating that the party shares their aspirations.

“Are you better [off] today than what you were three years or four years ago? That’s the question that people will ask themselves at the polls,” Mr. Florez said.

In 2024, Mr. Leal-Santillan said Somos Votantes and its super PAC, Somos PAC, will spend $57 million to support President Biden and other Democratic candidates. This drive is aimed at Latino voters in Arizona and Nevada, as well as Georgia, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Wisconsin.

Mr. Leal-Santillan agreed with Ms. Bacs’s assessment that Latinos need to hear solutions to their economic problems.

“[Focus] on what Democrats will do to make life more affordable for working people, and what tools Democrats are fighting for to help us build up a good life, which includes higher wages, affordable health care, affordable child care, and good paying jobs,” Mr. Leal-Santillan said.

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Attendees listen to local political candidates speak during a small business breakfast event with the Latin Chamber of Commerce, in Las Vegas on Feb. 2, 2024. Around one-third of Nevada's population is Latino. (Patrick T. Fallon/AFP via Getty Images)

The Kennedy Factor

Mr. Kennedy’s independent candidacy represents a challenging unknown for both Democrats and Republicans. Polling shows that Mr. Kennedy is performing better with Hispanic voters than with any other demographic.

In May, the Times/Siena poll found that 13 percent of Hispanics said they would vote for Mr. Kennedy. Only 8 percent of white voters and 10 percent of black voters said the same.

That’s not enough to win, but it’s enough to swing an election by pulling votes from another candidate. In 2020, President Biden won by a small percentage in both Arizona and Nevada.

Kennedy campaign press secretary Stefanie Spear told The Epoch Times that the campaign is succeeding with Latino voters because it’s talking about the issues they care about. The independent candidate’s most ardent supporters, she said, are people who earn less than $50,000 a year.

“Our appeal is to voters for whom the system is not working, and that is especially obvious to black and Latino voters. They know the system is corrupt,” Ms. Spear said. ”That explains Kennedy’s appeal as a crusader against corruption and for redirecting America’s resources inward.”

Mr. Florez was dismissive of the Kennedy campaign.

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Independent presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. speaks at the Libertarian National Convention in Washington on May 24, 2024. Hispanic support for Mr. Kennedy is enough to swing the upcoming election, polls suggest. (Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images)

Mr. Leal-Santillan made similar comments. He said that if Mr. Kennedy makes the ballot, Somos Votantes will work to tell Latino voters how Mr. Kennedy is in “lockstep” with former President Trump on issues such as abortion and immigration.

Mr. Mancera said he believes that Mr. Kennedy’s appeal to Hispanic voters is based purely on name recognition and association with former President John F. Kennedy, his uncle, and former Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, his father.

Older Latinos hold the Kennedy administration in high regard, according to Mr. Collazo. President Kennedy was an advocate of civil rights when segregation was still common in the United States.

Moreover, Mr. Collazo said the Kennedy campaign is tapping into the frustration and disillusionment that Latinos feel about U.S. politics. With a heavy presence on social media and regular appearances on popular podcasts, Mr. Kennedy is also reaching younger Latino voters who aren’t following the news through traditional means.

For now, it’s impossible to say whether significant polling support for Mr. Kennedy will translate into votes in November.

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