Thursday, October 6, 2022

Survey Places Latino Voters at the Center of the Political Map

As the United States is thrown into deep upheaval between Covid/19, extremism and the specter of a war in Europe, below the surface and far from the spotlight there is a change in the political identity of the Latino community. It seems that they are no longer a reliable constituency for the Democratic Party and may eye towards republicans.

As a result, and for the first time in years, the GOP is hopeful that the Hispanic voter will prefer them in the next election.

This is especially true now that Donald Trump – a notorious anti-Latino – is no longer in the White House.

What is at stake then is that the idea that Latinos will be identified with the Democratic vote in all circumstances is a myth.

For example, in the Republican primary elections in the southern border counties of Texas this week there was an avalanche of eight Latino candidates (six of them women) who won their races and who will run for Congress in November.

This stemmed from strong Latino voter turnout in those counties.

The survey, commissioned by the Pat Brown Institute for Public Affairs at Cal State Los Angeles and the California Community Foundation, was conducted by Matt Barreto, president of BSP Research, among Los Angeles County residents between November 8 and December 24.

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Its conclusions are that Latinos are attentive to what is happening around them and developed a position on the events of the day. 

Even though they do not trust the government very much, a large majority believes that it is important for a Latino to represent them in political life. For 46% this is “very important” and 36%, “somewhat important”.

This, of course, is good news for Latino candidates like, in the Los Angeles mayoral campaign, Kevin de León.

The signs that Latinos could begin to detach themselves from the Democratic Party do not mean that they have fulfilled the American dream, that they are prosperous, and that like other communities, they radically changed their view of society. No.

In fact, many Latinos are in a precarious situation, which has worsened during the pandemic, and half of them have a reserve of less than $500 within their reach, according to the survey.

What’s more: almost half of the county’s Latino population (which in turn constitutes 48.6% of the 10 million inhabitants) has lost their jobs or sources of income or their work hours during the two years of the pandemic.

This shift does not necessarily bring with it manifestations of extremism either. Nothing better to demonstrate this than the vaccination rate among Latinos in the county: 85%, against 59% for Republicans according to a recent Gallup poll, and 79% for the entire population.

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We must conclude that the Hispanic citizenship of our area is positioned at the center of political thought; in the very definition of moderation and in the coexistence of liberal and even radical positions with conservative and even misogynistic ones.

Although for 80% of those surveyed anti-Latino racism is a significant problem (and half of them have experienced it personally), they don’t reject the police: there are more Latinos who want to increase police budgets (34%) than those who want to reduce it (22%).

So the changes are partly subtle, partly overt. But to ignore them, especially in an election year, would be to make a serious mistake.

Because Latinos make up a third of registered voters – that is, of those most likely to vote – in the Los Angeles city and county.

Does this mean that the Latino population and electorate are maturing and better defining their interests? Or is it a step backwards and the Hispanic community gives in? It remains to be seen.

Gabriel Lerner is Editor Emeritus of La Opinión and founder of HispanicLA and LatinoLosAngeles.com. 

Founder and co-editor of Latino Los Angeles. Editor Emeritus of La Opinion, former Editor-in-Chief. Born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, is a journalist, columnist, blogger, poet, novelist, and short story writer. Was the editorial director of Huffington Post Voces. Editor-in-chief of the weekly Tiempo in Israel. Is the father of three grown children and lives with Celia and with Rosie, Almendra and Yinyit in Los Angeles.

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