by Joshua Shin
Recent reports indicate a dramatic political shift for Hispanic Americans, citing a defection from the left toward the right. While some mainstream media accounts dispute the shift, other national surveys are missing the on-the-ground factors that illustrate why a sizeable portion of Latinos are moving right politically, and the fact that many polls suggest Hispanics are drifting from the Democratic party over economic issues.
One Wall Street Journal poll taken earlier this year found that nonwhite voters were more likely to say high inflation is causing major financial strain in their lives with Hispanic men and Black women reporting the highest proportions.
A July Quinnipiac poll also put President Joe Biden’s approval rating among Hispanics at a record low of 19%, largely over the flagging economy.
But those clear polls get clouded by polling about complex topical issues that contain a range of opinions. In a July 21 piece published by The Atlantic titled “Are Latinos Really Realigning Toward Republicans?” CNN senior political analyst Ronald Brownstein weighs the evidence for and against while placing significant emphasis on cultural issues, and less on economic ones.
Some of those issues for example include both abortion and gun control, issues of which there are varying degrees of opinion. For example, a Harvard-Harris poll conducted after the Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe v. Wade found that 55% of Americans opposed the recent Dobbs decision while a whopping 72% of the same sample still said they supported a ban on abortion up until 15 weeks.
Gun control measures systematically underperform their polling by at least 20% on average, according to pollster David Shor, a veteran of Barack Obama’s 2012 victory. He attributed that phenomenon to how the general public trusts Republicans more on guns and crime, just as it appears to trust Democrats more on race and the environment.
As part of his research, Shor cited Maine’s 2016 background checks ballot measure as an instructive example. That example has a 40-point lead in polling. Its supporters outspent the other side six to one and the measure still lost by three points.
Despite varying opinions and subsets of viewpoints on these complex issues, the overall picture seems to support a Hispanic defection from the left and drift toward the center and the right.
Crime and Police Funding
One expert cited by The Atlantic called the mass shooting in Uvlade, Texas this year a “massive flashpoint for Latino communities across the country,” suggesting that, “there is data right now that says Latinos are angry about the overstepping of Republicans,” but it remains to be seen if that so-called flashpoint will impact electoral politics.
A widely reported August Dallas Morning News poll that trailed the Atlantic piece reported that Texas Gov. Greg Abbott still holds the same 7-point lead over Democratic opponent Beto O’Rourke that he did before the tragedy occurred at Robb Elementary School.
While only one in five Latinos polled say they own a firearm, that number reportedly increased in the immediate wake of the pandemic, according to a past November 4, 2021 ABC News report.
Surveys have also repeatedly shown that a majority of Latinos support more police funding.
One such poll, conducted in March this year by the Los Angeles based Pat Brown Institute suggests as much. In that poll, nearly half of Latinos polled said they want police funding to “remain steady” while a third want it to increase.
While many Hispanics and Latinos express a strong distaste for socialism, especially for those who fled communist regimes in Latin America like Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela, a less visible factor are the Hispanics’ disagreement with Black Lives Matter and moves to “defund the police.”
Jobs and the Economy
In other instances, some polls have glossed over key details about Hispanics’ largely working-class roots, ignoring how most second-generation Latino voters born in the U.S. are gainfully employed here.
In a recent Economist/YouGov poll sited by ADN America found that Hispanics are twice as likely as the average American to say the best indicator of an economic recession is the unemployment rate and jobs reports (20% to 11% on average).
Longtime Democratic electoral analyst Ruy Teixeira cited Echelon research that found 70% of Hispanics agreed with the statement, “America is the greatest country in the world,” which is more aligned with working-class and GOP voters than progressives.
Surprising views on immigration could be another indicator that left leaning polls are politicizing Hispanics voters’ view on immigration. Brownstein cited specific examples of where Latinos sided with liberals on immigration policy, issues such as legal status for Dreamers and opposition to Trump’s border wall.
But in contrast, a 2015 Pew Research poll found that although 86% of Hispanic voters were in favor of allowing undocumented immigrants to stay in the U.S. legally, only 54% supported a pathway to citizenship. This rose only two points to 56% when considering only those born outside the country.
Another potential indicator of a conservative Hispanic view on immigration are the high number of Latinos that actually work within the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agency. According to a 2018 report poll published by the Los Angeles Times, 2016 data suggests than at that time more than 50% of Border Patrol agents who monitor the U.S.-Mexico border were Latino.
“It’s real simple: It’s the law,” acting chief patrol agent Salvador Zamora, who is Hispanic, told the Los Angeles Times in 2016. “It is right and wrong. It is not against any one race or any one ethnic group or any one particular group of people.”
Energy, Oil and the Environment
Proponents of green energy counting on Hispanic support reported by polls will find it a tough sell in southern Texas, where many Hispanics support their families as oil field workers and welders.
Zapata County, which is 93% Hispanic, turned red during the 2020 election after a century as a Democratic stronghold over fears Biden’s clean energy policies would hurt their work.
In the months after Biden’s victory in 2020, progressive pollster David Shor warned that the Democratic Party’s focus on college-educated white liberals may have lost many them Hispanics, who traditionally sided with them, permanently to Republicans.
Specifically, he pointed to how President Donald Trump had converted minority conservatives, who usually vote Democrat for cultural reasons, into new Republican votes, Brownstein’s article in The Atlantic concedes that “some change in Latino loyalties seems irreversible.”
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Photo “Hispanic America” by GPA Photo Archive. CC BY 2.0.