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Are Hispanic voters shifting towards the GOP or Dems?

I'm shocked! Actually, not really.

Disillusionment and rebellion

By David Leonhardt, NY Times

Ap 30, 2024

Many people have been surprised by the shift of Latino voters toward the Republican Party. It has happened during the same decade that Donald Trump took over the party, and Trump often derides immigrants, including Latinos. Nevertheless, Latino support for Republicans has risen:

A chart shows how Latinos voted for president in 2012, 2016 and 2020, and how they plan to vote in 2024 based on recent polls. In 2012, 29 percent of Latinos voted Republican, and in 2024, 39 percent plan to do so.

Sources: Catalist (2012, 2016 and 2020); New York Times/Siena College April poll (2024) | By The New York Times

I have been talking with my colleague Jennifer Medina about these developments, and I want to share our exchange with you. Jennifer, a politics reporter based in Southern California, is writing a book about Latino political identity.

David: You’ve spent a lot of time traveling the country and talking to voters. Why do more Latino voters find Trump appealing?

Jennifer: There is no one simple profile. For a lot of these voters, there is a gut sense that the economy was better before the pandemic — and a perception that Trump has business acumen. Some are also repulsed by anything that they believe approaches socialism, like universal health care or college loan forgiveness.

For others, it is about religious values, including opposition to abortion. Then there is immigration: Many children and grandchildren of immigrants are repelled by what they see as the current chaos — people crossing illegally and being allowed to stay, people they believe are unfairly seeking asylum and so on.

Some voters simply delight in Trump’s willingness to skewer liberals and view him as the most entertaining politician in their lifetime. There is a kind of rebel factor: Many of these voters are the children of lifelong Democrats. They find Trump’s anti-establishment energy subversive and appealing.

Some people think this shift is about assimilation — that these voters are moving toward Republicans because they are becoming part of the white, non-Hispanic mainstream. Based on conversations with hundreds of these voters, I do not think it’s that simple.

David: That’s fascinating. How do you think Hispanic identity is helping drive their shift to the right?

Jennifer: Some of it is about disillusionment — a belief that despite years of promises, the Democratic Party has not demonstrably improved their lives. Many voters will tick off a long list of grievances — on the economy, public schools and medical costs — and then recite a version of “What do we have to lose?”

Many of these voters believe deeply in a bootstrap mentality. They are convinced that if they play by the rules in the United States, they can create prosperous lives. And they believe that Republicans are more focused on law and order than Democrats are.

It also has to do with a kind of permission structure. In the Rio Grande Valley, for instance, it became easier for Latino voters to support Trump once they saw many of their peers doing the same. The growth of Hispanic evangelical churches across the country and conservative online influencers also plays a role here.

David: For a long time, many politicians from both parties assumed that Democrats would gain Latino support by supporting high immigration. But that doesn’t seem quite right. Polls show that about 40 percent of Latino voters prefer the Republican approach to immigration. Democrats can’t lose so much of the Latino vote and easily win national elections. What do you hear about immigration?

Jennifer: The presumption that immigration would drive Latino voters makes some sense. The hard line that California Republicans took against immigration 30 years ago helped turn the state into a Democratic stronghold. A similar backlash happened in Arizona in the 2010s.

But something seems to have changed. Today, many Latinos see themselves not as a part of the group of immigrants that Trump is disparaging, but rather as Americans. Trump has quite effectively divided the world into us versus them. The new immigrants are the outsiders.

One thing Hispanic Trump supporters often point out is that Democrats have not passed sweeping changes for undocumented immigrants — and, in fact, Ronald Reagan was the last president to do so. So again, they ask: What do we have to lose with Republicans?

Still, I’d caution against viewing immigration as the driving force behind the shift because jobs and the economy come up much more often.

David: Whatever the explanation, I’ve changed my long-term expectations. I once thought the roughly 70 percent Barack Obama received from Latinos was a new normal. I don’t anymore. What about you?

Jennifer: Remember that Latinos have been less reliable partisans than Black and white voters. Now, slightly more than 60 percent of Hispanics consider themselves Democrats — in line with the levels during George W. Bush’s 2004 re-election, a high-water mark. Of course, Bush took a very different approach with Hispanic voters than Trump. Going forward, I would be surprised if there aren’t more surprises.

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