Survey places Latino voters in the center of the political map
Photo: Aurelia Ventura / Aurelia Ventura/Impremedia/La Opinion
As the United States convulses between Covid/19, extremism and the specter of war in Europe, below the surface and far from the spotlight there is a change in the political identity of the Latino community.
As a result, and for the first time in years, Republicans are 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.
Thus, 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 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, and conducted among Los Angeles County residents between November 8 and December 24.
His conclusions are that the Latino population is attentive to what is happening around them and maintains a position on the events of the day. This makes them prone to take a political and social interest in the community. They do not trust the government very much, but a large majority thinks 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 might begin to detach themselves from the Democratic Party do not mean that they have realized the American dream, that they are prosperous, and that like other communities, they are changing 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 work hours during the two years of the pandemic.
The shift towards the partisan center does not necessarily bring with it manifestations of extremism either. Nothing better to demonstrate this than weighing the vaccination rate among Latinos in the county: 85%, against 59% for Republicans according to a recent Gallup poll, and 79% of the entire population.
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 the coexistence of liberal and even radical positions with conservative and even misogynistic ones.
Because although 80% of those surveyed know that anti-Latino racism is a significant problem, and that half of the total have experienced such racism, this does not include a rejection of the police or the Sheriff's department: there are more 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 defining their interests? Or is it a step backwards and the Hispanic community gives in? It remains to be seen.
But it does mean that Democrats must win the Latino vote with facts on the ground. More than before.
The data is not definitive. They can fluctuate. We do not know what the situation will be in November.
But, once again, these are numbers that must be read carefully and cannot be ignored.
Gabriel Lerner is the editor emeritus of La Opinion and editor of LatinoLosAngeles.com.
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