4/13/2024 - Politics and Society


By Jose Daniel Salinardi


U.S. Latino voters are likely to soon be bombarded with messages that the fate of the nation is in their hands.

U.S. Latino voters are likely to soon be bombarded with messages that the fate of the nation is in their hands.

Joe Biden's weakness among Latinos threatens his re-election, and Donald Trump is relying on Latinos to deliver a groundswell of votes that will prove decisive in his return to the White House,

Is it possible to determine how Latinos define their vote? For the upcoming presidential elections in November, Democrats and Republicans are betting on winning them over, but their strategists are finding it difficult to develop an adequate strategy to achieve it.

In the last mid-term elections held in the United States in November 2022, "the red wave" was the phrase with which many analysts and media defined what would be a landslide victory for the Republican Party that would allow it to control both houses of Congress. It did not happen. One of the most notable reasons was the voting behavior of Latinos registered to vote.

The Latino vote was fundamental in slowing down the Republican advance and also in making it possible for the Democrats to maintain control of the Senate. Does this give Joe Biden an advantage over his sure adversary, Donald Trump, for next November's presidential elections? Or to put it another way, can we say that Latinos vote overwhelmingly for the Democratic Party in the United States? Wrong.

This is not an electoral segmentation, nor is it mostly oriented to one political party. Latinos residing in the state of Florida (mainly Cubans and Caribbeans) voted overwhelmingly Republican in 2022, while those in California or Nevada (Mexicans and Central Americans) voted Democratic. In both cases, the percentage ranged around 60%. The situation of the country at the time of casting the vote, the regions, states and cities mark important differences that can even be transferred to the family intimacy, where its members divide votes between "blues" and "reds".

In the same way that there are "swing states" (so called because of their oscillating electoral preferences, such as Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Nevada and North Carolina, for example), we could say that there is a "Latino's swing vote", an electoral phenomenon that must be carefully analyzed by the campaign strategists of both candidates.

What decides their vote? Immigration policy and the relationship between the United States and their countries of origin tend to be the usual answers, although the economy (inflation control and better jobs), better education and securityare the main issues that define the orientation of the Latino vote. In other words, living conditions and which candidate or party, according to their proposals, comes closest to the ideal sought. For politicians, they are an electoral asset as critical as they are difficult to seduce. And they number in the millions.

Axios Latinos is a newsletter that can be accessed through the Internet and summarizes the most important news for Latino communities in the United States and the rest of the world. According to their data, 36 million people of Latino origin will be able to vote next November for president. This is an increase of 12% with respect to the 2020 election, and almost 15% of all those eligible to vote.

In thesame way that has been happening in the United States, election after election, the participation of the youngest is an unknown. In this particular case, 31% of those eligible to vote are between 18 and 29 years old, and the data on their political preferences are diffuse or insufficient. However, in the surveys conducted so far, the youngest respondents have expressed their dissatisfaction with the current government of Joe Biden or do not rule out the possibility of not going to the polls.

On the other hand, there are those who complain about the requirements demanded by certain states to vote, such as having a driver's license as a document to prove identity, exclusively. What happens to those who do not have a vehicle but want to cast their vote being in a completely legal immigration status? Although these cases do not seem to be significant, complaints continue to be heard because they consider that this is a clear discrimination of voters.

Does everything expressed so far mean that Latinos will be the ones who will define the next presidential election in the United States? Republicans and Democrats seem to be convinced of this and that is why their strategies are aimed at winning them over.

Among the conservatives there are those who say that it is necessary to talk more about the economy, increase tactical investments aimed at this group and also that Donald Trump should tone down his racist rhetoric about Latino immigrants or Latino evangelical voters could deny him the vote.

According to Axios Latinos, "the Biden campaign is spending money early on targeting young black and Latino voters and sending Vice President Kamala Harris to specific events." "He has launched six different ads targeting Latinos in recent months in Spanish, English and Spanglish, shown on streaming services and YouTube."

"We know we can't take young Latino voters for granted. That's why we are investing earlier and more than ever to reach Latino voters, including a historic and unprecedented investment in Hispanic paid media," said Kevin Muñoz, national spokesman for the Biden-Harris Campaign.

Republicans seem more worried than their opponents, but they are betting on the rallying figure of Donald Trump, who feels confident after his landslide victory in 2022 in the state of Florida, sustained mainly by the Latino vote and by a historic margin (more than 20 percentage points over the Democrats). Will it be enough?

The "red wave" that finally was not, forced Trump's strategists to investigate more deeply the behavior of Latino voters with respect to the candidates he supported in the last mid-term elections.

The British magazine ¨The Economist¨, conducted work in the state of Arizona to examine the fluid voting history of this electorate and how Latino political identity has evolved.

What were their main conclusions?

1. Democrats have had the support of the popular vote in five of the last six elections. Their lead derives from the strong support they received from ethnic minority voters.

Hispanics are the largest ethnic minority in the United States, and one of the fastest growing. They have usually leaned decisively Democratic, but are persuadable in the face of governments that do not meet their expectations.

Donald Trump narrowed the Democrats' lead in 2020, and his lead in the polls shows that he may be getting more support fromHispanics than he did then.

4. In Arizona in particular, Hispanics were less likely to swing their vote to Trump in 2020, allowing for a narrow victory for Joe Biden.

Of the six so-called swing states that could define next November's presidential election, Arizona has the highest percentage of Latino voters.

Almost two years after the last legislative elections held in November 2022, the conclusions about how defining the Latino vote could be are not unanimous.What is not in doubt is that it could prove to be a problem for the electoral pretensions of the two main candidates.

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Jose Daniel Salinardi

Jose Daniel Salinardi

Jose Daniel Salinardi is a Certified Public Accountant graduated from the School of Economics of the University of Buenos Aires.

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