WASHINGTON, DC — The stereotypical 32 million Latino voters in the United States — that they’re monolithic, focused solely on immigration issues, are predictably Democrats and Catholics — lead stubborn lives, But the reality is very different.
And politicians are considerably ahead of the public in this awareness.
That was the conclusion of an online panel on the future of Latinos in political discourse, sponsored by Georgetown University’s Initiative on Catholic Social Thought and Public Life on Feb. 17.
Part of the misperception stems from low voter turnout, said Ana Gonzalez-Berrera, a researcher at the Pew Research Center.
“In 2020, we projected that a record 32 million Latinos would be able to vote in 2020. And that, for the first time, made them the largest minority group in the United States, overtaking black Americans for the first time in the electoral population,” she said. “However, historically, Latinos haven’t come out and voted. … They have the right to vote, many of them, but less than half end up voting (on) election day.
As for why Latinos aren’t a predictable voting bloc, one reason is “because they’re so young,” Gonzalez-Berrera said.
“Young people tend to be less engaged in politics and the other thing is where we found … the largest populations of Latinos and where they matter the most are states” like New Mexico, a- she declared. Only two states, Florida and Arizona, received the most attention for Latinos in the 2020 campaign, she added.
Another anti-stereotype: “Less than half of Latinos are Catholic, and Catholics tend to be—or align more—with the Democratic Party. But those who are Protestant, especially evangelicals, are more likely to align themselves with the Republican Party,” Gonzalez-Berrera said.
Maria de Lourdes Valencia, associate director of the Culture of Life office for the Diocese of San Diego, thinks it’s characteristic of Catholic Latinos to vote with their conscience.
“So if they have a good conscience which requires lifelong training, they will take into consideration the principles of human life and dignity, solidarity and the common good when they vote,” he said. she declared. “They will select candidates and policies that represent their principles.”
Luis Fraga, a political scientist at the University of Notre Dame, pointed out that grassroots support for Republican candidates among Latino voters hasn’t changed much.
“If you average Republican support in presidential elections going back to 1972, 28.4% of Latinos vote for any Republican presidential candidate. It’s not a monolithic vote and it never has been,” he observed.
If the polls at the exit of the polls showing that President Donald Trump received 32% of the Latino votes can be trusted, “that’s just a few percentages (points) above what you would normally expect” , did he declare.
Sabrina Rodríguez, a reporter for Politico, said she noticed that Trump was able to make inroads among Latin American women just on the issue of abortion “because they made a very conscientious effort to focus Even in South Texas…I recently did a story about Hispanic women in the GOP trying to get people on board, and one of the issues they focus on the most is the issue of abortion because they know a lot of people care.
Gabby Trejo, executive director of Sacramento Area Congregations Together, which is affiliated with Faith in Action, said that as an organizer of mostly Latino immigrants, “of all the issues we’ve identified as a community is really this fight for the freedom to be recognized as children of God, to be recognized… with all our dignity, and that takes us on this path to fight for housing.
“When the pandemic started in the summer of 2020, we started doing what we called in the community by doing a listening campaign and talking to over 300…Latino residents and asking…what are some of the things they were facing,” Trejo said. “And housing was the No. 1 problem, the anxiety of not knowing if they were going to be able to keep their job, then security.
“Our people decided we weren’t going to wait for the city, county or state to rescue us (and) decided to take it upon ourselves to raise money to help undocumented immigrants in our area to make sure we that we can help them pay their rent. ”
She concluded, “And so I would say that all the issues that we’ve addressed…have been very much driven by this appetite to claim their identity of who God created them to be.”
Trejo also addressed the challenges politicians face when appearing before what she called “low-propensity voters.”
“It requires elected officials, politicians, to come out and engage people where they are,” she explained. “And so calling, you know, using the voter registration phone list is not enough, because … it doesn’t generate a list, an accurate list of where our people are.”