Friday, October 12, 2018

How Much Will the Latino Vote Matter for the 2018 Midterms?

Looking ahead to the 2018 midterm elections, it is worth asking the eternal question. Will Latino voters bother turning out? I want to focus on North Carolina since that is where I live. At the time of the 2016 presidential election, I wrote that the sleeping giant would likely keep snoozing. I said further that we would have to wait until the 2020 election for that vote to be decisive in any way. That still makes sense to me.

In North Carolina, the percentage of registered Latino voters has grown only slowly. Here are some numbers from the NC Board of Elections:

Today: 2.75%
Start of 2018: 2.58%
At time of 2016 election: 2.39%

We have similar slow growth in Mecklenburg County, where Charlotte is.

Today: 4.27%
Start of 2018: 4.06%
Time of 2016 election: 3.8%

Now, in Mecklenburg County there was a spike in Latino primary turnout because of a sheriff primary that hinged on the 287(g) program, which directly hits home for people locally. But that does not automatically mean they will vote again in the midterms. By the time we get to the 2020 presidential election, we might be at 5% of the electorate, which starts to become a more decisive amount. But people have to come out.

But there's more. If they turn out, might it be for Donald Trump? From León Krauze:

While Trump was enacting his anti-immigrant agenda, Latino voters seemed to have slowly warmed up to the president. In last week’s NPR/PBS/Marist poll, 41 percent of Hispanics approved of Trump’s performance (black Americans? 12 percent). This is no outlier. Another recent poll put Trump’s approval among Latinos at 35 percent. An average of both would put Trump—again, an overtly nativist president—within about 10 points of Barack Obama’s 49 percent approval among Hispanic at roughly the same time in his presidency. 
This does not mean Donald Trump is a popular president among Hispanics. He is not. But he is not repudiated, either, not by a mile. In a recent interview with Vox, University of Southern California professor Roberto Suro explained that while Latino voters “hold negative views toward Trump,” they do so “by a much smaller margin than Democrats overall.” Suro suggests that Latinos more closely resemble independent voters rather than “a steadfast Democratic constituency.” The polls, says Suro, also dispute “the presumption that Trump’s immigration policies have alienated large numbers of Latinos.”
The most important point to take from those observations is that it is a mistake to assume Latino voters make their decision primarily on immigration. In conversations or at talks I get push back on that but the data and outcomes support it. Donald Trump is unrelentingly attacking immigrants from Latin America, but voters are deeply concerned about jobs, wages, and health care.


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