If you watched any coverage of the 2020 election, you probably heard about “the Latino vote.” Mentioned by political analysts and broadcasters across the country, the Latino vote was seen as a crucial component to the election. Considering the fact that Latinos became the largest marginalized group of the 2020 electorate, this has led many to view the group as a unified force or monolith. Latinos get painted over with a brush that assumes they all have similar interests, backgrounds or aligning beliefs. If we look at the fact that Latinos helped Trump win Florida and helped Biden win Arizona, we can see that this is the furthest thing from the truth.
So, how are Latinos different?
Well, Latinos originate from over 33 different countries from Latin America, each with different economic, historical and social makeups that inform the way they behave politically. Someone from Brazil does not have the same lived experiences as someone from Mexico. Much in the same way that someone from the U.S does not have the same lived experiences as someone from the Netherlands. When we view Latinos as one unified group, it often erases the background and experiences that helps inform the way they vote the way they do.
For example, Cuban-Americans vote overwhelmingly alongside the Republican party due to a popularly held notion within the community that anything progressive could lead to socialism or communism. While this may contradict the notion that Latinos only vote blue, it makes sense if we look into the history of those who make up the majority of the Cuban-American community. Cuban immigrants and Cuban-Americans have often been granted specific opportunities within the U.S that other Latinos have not been granted, such as the Cuban Adjustment Act and small business grants. With the combination of anti-communist rhetoric and U.S support, it is not surprising for Cuban-Americans to vote Republican. Cuban-Americans are not the only ones who vote this way, since Venezuelans vote in a similar manner along anti-communist lines. As well, Mexican Americans tend to vote alongside Republican lines because of similar beliefs linked to patriotism, gun ownership and religious beliefs.
On the other hand, we also get to understand the reason why other groups within the Latino community vote alongside the Democratic party. For example, Puerto Rican voters often vote Democrat due to the economic standing of the island and a large push towards independence. Other groups, such as Nicaraguans, Salvadorans and Guatemalans often vote Democrat due to the historic U.S interventions that have affected their countries.
Once we understand these kinds of historical backgrounds, we can understand that there are reasons for these trends and the lack of unity on political beliefs.
What else is different?
Not only are the backgrounds that Latinos come from different, but there are also different components to the identities of Latinos. Latinos range in age, race, socioeconomic class, education, religion and personal beliefs. All of these factors contribute to the way that Latinos may vote. Most of the eligible Latino voters are U.S born and a large portion of them are young.
This is crucial to understanding the wide range of topics that Latino voters are interested in. Rather than simply voting based on the issue of immigration, Latino voters care about topics that matter to every other citizen. According to a recent poll by Univision, the top three concerns of Latino voters were COVID-19 response, income and healthcare, which align closely to the concerns of the general electorate.
How do we view the Latino community then?
We do and we should continue to view these groups as ideologically diverse as any other group! When looking at Latino voters, we should try to look with nuance to fully understand the issues they care about. Political campaigns may often try not to tailor or work for the Latino vote under the notion that they only vote a certain way, and that is definitely not true. Latinos are as ever evolving and fluid in their personal beliefs as other folks.
While the “Latino vote” will probably remain as a topic of political discussion, it’s important to help debunk this myth whenever possible.