How 32 million eligible Latinos will vote in dozens of pivotal House, Senate, and gubernatorial elections across the country in November will be vital in determining which party controls Congress after this year’s midterm elections.
Latinos make up the second-largest voting bloc in the United States, constituting 18.7 percent of the nation’s total population.
That’s no secret, of course, with candidates of all persuasions aggressively soliciting the Latino vote with Spanish-language political ads in tight races in Texas, Pennsylvania, Nevada, Oregon, and Florida.
The Republican National Committee (RNC) on Sept. 8 announced it had hosted this year more than 5,000 separate events appealing for minority votes at 38 voter outreach centers in 19 states, including dozens labeled “Hispanic community centers.” The campaign is meant to sustain the momentum Republicans gained among Latino voters during the Trump presidency.
Meanwhile, Democratic heavyweights are directly appealing to Latino voters to seal erosion in what had been a solid, reliable bank of support. Critics within and without the party say Democrats may have taken the Hispanic vote for granted and are only now belatedly focusing on it.
President Joe Biden addressed the 45th Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute Gala on Sept. 15. He used the occasion to tout how the American Rescue Plan benefits Latinos by providing access to vaccines, better health care, and keeping schools open.
On Sept. 25, former President Barak Obama, a Democrat, will address the 5th annual L’ATTITUDE Conference, the nation’s “premier Latino business event,” in San Diego, Calif.
Both parties are trying to tailor their candidates’ campaigns to appeal to Latino votes with tactics and strategies based on data and polls collected and analyzed since June by research firms, media groups, and campaigns.
Regardless of how the data is interpreted, there is ample opportunity for candidates of both parties to gain favor with a Latino “voting bloc” that is hardly monolithic but—despite distinct ethnic and regional variations—appears predominately commonly concerned with jobs, cost-of-living, and the economy.
In 2020, when Latinos cast one-10th of ballots in the presidential election, Biden received an estimated 61 percent of that vote, down from over 70 percent Barak Obama received in his two elections.
Latino voters nationwide identified jobs, the economy, health care, schools, and public safety as top priorities in a survey of Latino voters conducted in July by UnidosUS, the nation’s largest Hispanic advocacy group. A Siena College poll of Hispanic voters published Sept. 16 reaffirmed the findings.
Both surveys indicate that Latinos are amenable to Republican messaging on jobs and the economy, but a significant majority want progress on gun control and immigration policies. An overwhelming number favor legal access to abortion.
The emergence of abortion access as an issue among Latino voters may spell trouble for some Republican hopefuls. For the first time since it conducted Latino voter surveys this century, UnidosUS reported access to abortion was cited by Latino voters as a top five issue, with more than 70 percent of respondents saying it should remain legal.
This emerging trend in the wake of June’s U.S. Supreme Court repeal of Roe v Wade could stem the eroding Latino support for their party, Democrats say.
That claim may have some validation in the Siena College survey of 522 Hispanic voters conducted Sept. 6-14 within a broader poll of 1,399 registered voters nationwide. That survey found Latinos are more likely to agree with Democrats on more issues than Republicans but will support GOP candidates strong on crime and policing.
Worryingly for Democratic candidates, 40 percent of Latino respondents in the Siena poll expressed reservations about the Democratic Party’s progressive wing’s focus on race and gender.
Most Latino survey respondents ultimately said their vote would come down to which candidates best address their economic concerns. According to the Sienna poll, Latino voters are evenly split on which party they think can best deliver jobs and lower the cost of living.
Overall, 56 percent of the Sienna poll respondents said they would vote blue, and 32 percent said they would vote red in November.
While that may sound like good news for Democrats, it may not be enough good news for the party to thwart the forecast that Republicans will retake the House and Senate.
According to the Siena survey, young Latino voters, especially men in Texas and Florida, are increasingly registering as Republicans. That trend is confirmed in a Sept. 2-11 nationwide survey of 400 registered Latino voters published Sept. 14 by BSP Research.
All the data, polls, and analyses add to uncertainty for Nov. 8 candidates in dozens of U.S. House races where Latinos constitute 20 percent or more of the constituency.
The “Latino vote” is also expected to be a key determinant in several close gubernatorial and U.S. Senate races, such as Arizona and Nevada, where Spanish speakers comprise 25 percent of eligible voters.
Latinos are projected to sway outcomes even in districts or states without a large presence in overall voter numbers. In Pennsylvania, Latinos account for less than 10 percent of total voters but have proven to be key in determining winners and losers in close races.
Latinos constitute one-third of Arizona’s residents and one-quarter of the state’s registered voters, according to a July analysis by UCLA’s Latino Policy & Politics Institute. By some estimates, Latinos will comprise half the state’s population by 2050.
Approximately 840,000 Latinos voted in the 2020 election in Arizona, which saw a record 3.4 million turnout. Biden edged Trump by 10,457 votes.
Approximately 644,600 will cast ballots on Nov. 8, according to one forecast. That would amount to a record Latino turnout for an Arizona midterm election and four times the number who voted in the 2002 primary.
According to the Arizona Secretary of State’s office, 45 percent of approximately 1 million Latinos registered to vote in the state are enrolled Democrats, 15 percent are registered as Republicans, and nearly 40 percent are not affiliated with a party, reflecting a national trend among all voters in registering as independents or “NAs,” meaning “Non-Affiliated” with a party.
How Latinos within that unaffiliated contingent will vote could determine if incumbent Democrat Sen. Mark Kelly (D-Ariz.) defeats Trump-endorsed Republican challenger Blake Masters as he is favored to do, and if Trump-endorsed Republican Kari Lake beats Democrat Kati Hobbes, Arizona’s current secretary of state in the “tossup” gubernatorial race.
Lake has made border security an integral component of her campaign, posting on Twitter after her primary win that on “Day 1, I take my hand off the Bible, give the Oath of Office and we Declare an Invasion on our Southern Border.”
But Arizona Latinos, while identifying immigration policy as a concern and opposed to “open borders,” do not rate “border security” as a high priority, making it uncertain how the state’s Latino voters will receive Lake’s campaign.
In one survey, Arizona Latinos said they favor keeping abortion legal by 30 percentage points, which hasn’t caused Lake to change her campaign messaging but has prompted Masters to remove his anti-abortion stance from his campaign website.
Latinos constitute only 7.6 percent of the Keystone State’s residents and 5.3 percent of its registered voters, according to an analysis by Pew Research. But they are regarded as one of the difference-making constituencies in several congressional district races.
While cities such as Philadelphia and Pittsburgh include long-established Latino neighborhoods that traditionally vote Democratic, demographic shifts indicate pockets of GOP-registered Latino voters in cities such as Reading and Allentown.
Therefore, Pennsylvania Latino voters are targeted as potential lynchpins in the battleground race for governor between Trump-endorsed Republican state Sen. Doug Mastriano (R-Gettysburg) and Democrat Josh Shapiro. The same is true for the U.S. Senate race between Trump-endorsed TV celebrity Dr. Mehmet Öz and Democrat Lt. Gov. John Fetterman.
Latinos made up 4 percent of the total turnout in Pennsylvania’s 2020 election, up from 3 percent in the 2018 midterms, according to Pew Research.
Latino voters backed Biden by at least a 3-1 margin in Pennsylvania in 2020, according to UCLA. That proved pivotal in his narrowly winning the battleground state.
“Latinos in Pennsylvania will play a decisive role in the 2022 election cycle,” Mi Familia Vota National Programs Manager Irving Zavaleta said during an Aug. 25 media call.
According to NALEO’s National Latino Voter Tracking Poll, Pennsylvania Latino respondents generally favored Democrats over Republicans by a 32 percentage-point margin; 21 percent said they were undecided.
Seventy-three percent of respondents said abortion should remain legal, with 41 percent saying it was a “deal-breaker” for them; 83 percent said it was important for Pennsylvania’s elected officials to speak out against white nationalism and white supremacy.
Only 61 percent of NALEO survey respondents in Pennsylvania were sure they’d vote in November. Zavaleta’s said that relatively low percentage. He added that the large percentage of undecideds among those who say they will vote indicates there has been little outreach to Latino voters in the state by candidates.
According to Univision’s Hispanic Vote, Latinos constitute 21 percent of Colorado’s residents and cast 11 percent of the state’s vote in 2020.
NALEO projects that 8.9 percent more Latinos will vote in this year’s midterm election compared to 2018.
According to a May study from Emerson College’s nationwide initiative on Latinos, non-registered Colorado Latino voters were split over whether their vote would make a difference, with 41 percent believing their votes don’t matter, 40 percent saying they could be swayed to vote “if …more informed”, and but 39 percent saying they have no intention of voting.
According to a May study from Emerson College’s nationwide initiative on Latinos, non-registered Colorado Latino voters expressed frustration with the Democratic Party’s focus on immigration reform instead of the economy. The same study said rhetoric from some Republican candidates over border integrity is alienating, meaning both parties can tailor messages to assuage these issues and garner votes.
Libre Initiative Action, an Hispanic outreach group backed by Koch-funded Americans for Prosperity, maintains that concerns over inflation and the cost of living among Latinos are giving Republicans an opportunity to win the U.S. Senate race between GOP challenger and underdog Joe O’Dea and incumbent Democrat Sen. Michael Bennett (D-Colo.) Both are running Spanish-language campaign ads.
One of seven new U.S. House districts created nationwide following post-2020 Census redistricting, Colorado’s Congressional District 8 (CD 8) has the largest concentration of Hispanic residents, at 38 percent, of any Colorado congressional district.
CD 8’s inaugural election in November pits state Rep. Yadira Caraveo (D-Thornton), a pediatrician who ran unopposed in the Democratic primary, against Republican state Sen. Barbara Kirkmeyer (R-Fort Lupton).
The RNC earlier this year opened a “Hispanic Community Center” in Thornton to appeal to CD 8 voters. At the same time, Libre Initiative Action has been very active on behalf of Kirkmeyer’s platform, claiming it has knocked on more than 4,000 doors in the district since August.
Latinos constitute more than 28 percent of the Silver State’s total population and 18 percent of Nevada’s registered voters.
An estimated 165,000 Latinos will vote in November, casting one of every six ballots in Nevada. That would be an increase of 5.8 percent in Latino voter participation from the 2018 midterms and a whopping 70.2 percent boost from 2014.
Latino voters will influence Nevada “tossup” elections for governor between incumbent Democrat Gov. Steve Sisolak and Republican challenger Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo, and for U.S. Senate between the Nevada Attorney General Adam Laxalt and Democratic incumbent Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nevada).
Cortez Masto is seeking a second term after her 2016 election made her the first Latina ever elected to the U.S. Senate. Laxalt is trying to counter that advantage with Spanish-language radio ads and events sponsored by his campaign’s Latinos for Laxalt group. The RNC, National Republican Senatorial Committee, and state GOP have collectively pledged more than $1 million to an Operación Vamos outreach to Latino voters.
While Latino voters are also the dominant voting constituency in at least four state assembly districts.
These three Las Vegas-area congressional districts primarily span Clark County, where three-fourths of the state’s residents live, and where three Democratic incumbents are projected to face stiff tests by Republican challengers.
According to the Las Vegas Latin Chamber of Commerce, inflation, jobs, and the economy are priorities for Nevada’s Latino voters, who were furious over pandemic school closures.
About 80 percent of the three districts’ residents who identify as “Latino” have a Mexican-American background, and work in hospitality, service industries, and construction, which are rebounding after pandemic-fostered upheaval, according to NALEO.
All three southern Nevada congressional districts were remapped during post-2020 Census reapportionment, with changes adopted by the Democrat-controlled state assembly inadvertently assisting Republican candidates.
With CD 1’s new boundaries stretching east and south of Las Vegas and its reconfigured demographics doubling the district’s number of registered Republicans, a 2-to-1 Democratic voter bulge has been scaled back to single-percentage points.
Democratic Rep. Dana Titus (D-Nevada), a five-term incumbent, fended off a scrappy challenge by Socialist Democrat Amy Vilela in their May primary, flooding Las Vegas with Spanish-language TV ads. She is doing the same against Republican challenger retired U.S. Army Col. Mark Robertson.
In CD 4, two-term incumbent Democrat Rep. Steven Hosford (D-Nevada) faces retired U.S. Air Force major and insurance firm owner Sam Peters in another battleground election where Latino voters constitute more than 30 percent of the constituency.
The U.S. Census Bureau confirmed in September that in July 2021, an estimated 40 percent of Texans identified as Latino, eclipsing non-Hispanic white Texans by 0.8 percent and becoming the state’s largest demographic group for the first time.
The Texas Demographic Center reported in 2020 that roughly 83 percent of the state’s Latino population claim Mexican descent.
In 2020, Texas Latino votes comprised 23 percent of the ballots cast, up from 21 percent in 2018.
An estimated 1.8 million Texas Latinos will vote in November, according to a NALEO estimate. More than one of every five Texas voters is expected to be Latino in November.
Texans do not register to vote by party. Hence, it is hard to gauge by analyzing registration rolls which party is gaining the most voters and how Latino voters in the Lone Star State are leaning until actual results from primary and general elections are counted.
Republicans point to trends in three working-class Rio Grande Valley congressional districts spanning four border counties where traditionally politically liberal but culturally conservative Latinos comprise 93 percent of the population and have traditionally voted Democratic.
In 2020, Trump flipped one of the four counties, Zapata County, and narrowed the Democratic margins of victories across the three districts. In a June special election to serve the remainder of retiring Democrat Rep. Filemon Vela’s term in CD 34, conservative Republican Mayra Flores, born in Mexico, defeated Democrat Dan Sanchez by nearly eight percentage points, becoming only the second Republican to ever win in a Rio Grande Valley congressional district and the first Latina Republican ever elected to Congress from Texas.
Flores is among three pro-Trump Mexican-American Texas Latinas presenting what the RNC calls a “triple threat” to Democrat dominance in the Rio Grande Valley, espousing conservative positions on abortion, immigration, and election security and finding success, proof Republicans say that Latino voters are increasingly shifting to the right.
In newly redistricted CD 34, Flores—now the incumbent in the majority-Hispanic district that includes the border city of Brownsville—faces another incumbent, Democratic Rep. Vicente Gonzalez (D-Texas), who is opting to run in this district rather than CD 15, where he had won three elections since 2016.
Flores, the wife of a Border Patrol officer and evangelical Christian who has called for Biden’s impeachment and claims the Democratic Party is the “greatest threat America faces,” is a pronounced underdog in the redrawn district, which Cook Political Reports says “leans” to Democrats by nine percentage points.
In CD 28, Republican challenger Cassy Garcia, a former staffer for Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), is campaigning on religious liberty, school choice, and abortion bans against nine-term incumbent Democrat Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Texas), the last Democrat who opposes abortion and a longtime advocate for the area’s oil and gas industries.
In what most regard as the most competitive of the three Rio Grande congressional district races, Trump-endorsed conservative Republican Monica De La Cruz is running for the CD 15 seat.
De La Cruz faces progressive Democrat Michelle Vallejo in November with race forecast within the margin of error.
Latinos constitute 26 percent of the Sunshine State’s population and 17 percent of the state’s registered voters.
In 2020, Trump won Florida convincingly, securing 56 percent of the state’s Cuban-American vote, which traditionally has favored the GOP, but also 50 percent of the non-Cuban Hispanic vote, which in Florida traditionally skews to Democrats.
More than 1.4 million Florida Latinos are projected to cast ballots in November, one of about every five votes in the state, similar to the 2018 and up nearly 60 percent from 2014’s midterms turnout.
Latino voters, especially young men, have been part of the growth of the Republican Party in Florida, which now has more than a 200,000-voter advantage in a state where Democrats had a 600,000-voter advantage in 2016.
The conservative shift among Florida Latinos is expected to benefit two-term incumbent Republican Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) in his race against Democratic challenger Rep. Val Demings (D-Fla.) The same goes for a dozen Republican candidates and incumbents across the state’s 28 congressional districts and for incumbent Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis in his reelection bid against former GOP governor and now-Democratic Rep. Charlie Crist (D-Fla.)
The Florida Democratic Party has hired a statewide Hispanic voter contact director and increased bilingual staff, hoping to reach more Latino voters to reverse the trend and capitalize on a survey that says 70 percent of Florida respondents support legal access to abortion.