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DETROIT (ChurchMilitant.com) - A majority of Latino voters support Democrats for the presidency, but Democrats cannot necessarily count on this diverse group that is increasingly resembling non-Hispanics in their attitudes.
Democrats and Republicans have long sought to woo Latinos, who are expected to represent 13% of eligible voters, thereby becoming a slightly bigger group than reliably Democratic black Americans. According to a Pew survey, this "likely has political implications," because nonwhites are more likely to vote for Democrats.
While Joe Biden won the lion's share on Super Tuesday, socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders won in California, the state with the biggest number of decisive Latino voters. Vox quoted UCLA Prof. Matt Barreto, who said that Sanders would have lost more ground if it had not been for Latino and young voters. Latinos make up one-third of the electorate in California and Texas, where border issues and immigration are key. On Tuesday, older Latinos supported Biden over Sanders.
Democrats have focused on immigration, which has distinguished white Americans from Latinos. While Donald Trump was widely excoriated by the media and Democrats for "racist" comments about immigration, Hillary Clinton garnered just 66% of the Latino vote in 2016, according to Pew polling. Even so, Democrats continue to push the immigration issue, despite growing support among Latinos for Trump.
Pew showed that 28% of Latino voters came out for Donald Trump in 2016. As of now, 30% support the incumbent president, despite Latinos' general dislike for Trump's immigration policies. While Latino support for Trump is still lower than for Democrats, support for Republicans has been growing over the last three presidential cycles. And last week, according to the Washington Times, an Emerson College Polling survey showed that Trump had a 44% approval rating among the demographic. In a hypothetical showdown with Sanders, Trump had 41% of Latino support.
A Politico Consult survey reported in February that 36% of Latino voters had a favorable opinion of Trump, while 12% strongly approve and 22% somewhat approve of the job he is doing.
Democrats notice that Latinos, who are diverse as to national origin, skin color and religion, cannot be relied upon necessarily to pull the lever for Democrats this fall. For example, Democrat analyst Kristian Ramos wrote in The Atlantic recently: "Displeasure with the president over the past three years has not led to an increase in support for the opposing party."
Ramos believes that Democrats are too focused on immigration and say little about other issues that motivate Latino voters. In order to win over Latinos, Ramos wrote that Democrats "must continue to fight for the immigrant community, but they must also offer a positive, aspirational narrative that embraces Latinos as a vibrant part of America."
Ramos fears that this year's election will be close, as was 2016, and that a "small, but vocal subset of Latino voters" who support Trump are a threat.
Trump currently has more support from conservative Latinos than Mitt Romney did in 2012 or Hillary Clinton in 2016. The economy is one reason Latinos support Trump. His rhetoric and economic statistics have persuaded many Latinos. Equis Research found, for example, that 57% of Latinos in crucial Florida support the president's handling of the economy. In an example of Latino diversity, 71% of Cuban-origin Latinos support Trump's performance on the economy.
In 2014, the Pew polling organization found that Hispanic voters are nearly split over abortion, mirroring the national divide. A poll found that while 48% felt that abortion should be legal in all or most cases, 44% said it should illegal in all or most cases. In comparison, black voters showed the greatest acceptance of abortion (49%) and whites were right behind at (48%).
U.S.-born Latinos showed a higher acceptance of legal abortion (51%) than recent Hispanic immigrants (35%). Foreign-born Latinos showed the greatest rejection of abortion (60%) than the other ethnic groups. Over the preceding decade, between 51% and 57% of Hispanics thought abortion should be illegal in all or most cases, including 20% who feel that it should never be allowed.
According to Pew, 41% of all registered voters, regardless of ethnicity, believe that abortion should be illegal in all or most cases.
Among recent immigrants and those who recall immigrant roots, Republican and pro-life activists will find challenges and opportunities this fall. A Pew Center report noted, "The closer they are to their immigrant roots, the more likely Americans with Hispanic ancestry are to identify as Hispanic." Succeeding generations tend to resemble other native-born Americans, it said, and are more likely to agree with the Trump administration on immigration.
It is pro-life Latinos, immigrant or not, who may be persuaded to vote for Trump and persuade others. According to Pew, 26% of Latino Catholic voters supported Trump in 2016. Communicating to these voters is key, and this is a lesson that has not been lost on socialist Sanders. Latino organizers have been busy promoting him in California, Nevada and Texas.
Mario H. Lopez of the conservative Hispanic Leadership Fund told Church Militant that Republicans should continually engage Latino communities. "When they show up," Lopez said of Republicans, "people are appreciative of that and are more likely to like the candidate even if they don't agree 100% with all the policies."
Lopez said that Democrats have pursued a long-game in Texas, where Republicans have dismissed Democrats' hopes of turning it from red to blue. Democrat Robert "Beto" O'Rourke, for example, came very close to beating pro-life incumbent Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) in 2018, Lopez noted, because of Democrats' long-term efforts. He said that Republicans' "very strong reluctance" to engage Latino voters has been to the detriment of the GOP.
Republicans' unfamiliarity with the Latino community, reluctance to face tough questions, and policy differences are why they fail to engage Latinos. "If a Republican shows up to a meeting of a Latino business group" after decades of non-attendance, Lopez said, "Latinos ask: 'Where have you been?'"
Adolfo Castañeda of Human Life International warned that progressives and even Planned Parenthood target Latinos with economic and social assistance, as well as legal counsel for immigration matters. "Democrats capitalize on the vulnerability of Latino immigrants for political motives," he told Church Militant.
Castañeda said that Catholic priests are not preaching authentic doctrine regarding politics. "The Catholic Church has doctrines about the correct criteria about voting in good Christian conscience," he said, adding that priests should not be afraid to tell how to correctly assess political candidates.