Tanzina Vega: It's The Takeaway, I'm Tanzina Vega. In 2020, a record number of Latinos are eligible to vote in the US election. For the first time in US history, the number of eligible Latino voters actually exceeds the number of eligible Black voters and that has translated into a fair amount of lip service paid to the Latino community this election cycle from both President Trump and Joe Biden, but many politicians and mainstream media outlets still have a weak grasp on both the diversity within the US Latino population and the issues that matter most to Latino voters. Here's former presidential candidate Julian Castro, speaking with me on The Takeaway back in July, about the media's coverage of Latinos.
Julian Castro: If it has to do with immigration, they're all right there. You're getting a lot of coverage, "Hey, let's figure out what Latinos have to say about this." If it deals with something else, whether it's police violence or jobs in the economy, or healthcare or technology, you name it, well, that's not a Latino issue.
Tanzina: All this month on The Takeaway, we'll be exploring some of the issues that matter most to Latino voters in a series we're calling A Votar. You can call us with your stories at 877-8-MY-TAKE, llámanos al 877-869-8253. I'm joined now by Mark Hugo Lopez, the director of Global Migration and Demography at the Pew Research Center. Mark, welcome back to the show.
Mark Hugo Lopez: Thank you. It's great to be here.
Tanzina: I have a couple quick questions for you now, and we'll continue after the break. What are some of the top issues that have emerged, Mark, in the Pew survey that Latino voters have for the 2020 election?
Mark: Well, with COVID-19 and the economic impact that that's had on the nation, particularly Latinos, it's perhaps what you might expect that the economy is a top issue for Latinos. Healthcare and the coronavirus outbreak response are the top three issues that Latino voters tell us are important for determining their vote this year. I'd also add that the fourth most important issue they cited was racial and ethnic inequality. These are issues that many Americans also point to, but notably, this is a somewhat different rating than we saw in December, before the coronavirus outbreak, when the economy and immigration were tight as top issues for Latinos then.
Tanzina: How is that translated to the data, Mark? Are Latinos experiencing an awakening of their own racial identity in this country and how it's affected by many of the issues that we've talked about just now? Where does that come from?
Mark: We are seeing an awareness of both identity, people saying I'm Afro Latino or I'm Afro Caribbean. In our survey, is about 25% of Latino adults identify as Afro Latino, which we directly asked them, but there's also been a growing awareness in the population of-- There is also some racial discrimination and racial issues to address within the Hispanic population, and that's also shaping some of the conversation.
I'd say that even before everything that's happened over the course of the last year, we were already hearing from Latinos that they were concerned about their place in the country. They were experiencing discrimination. Some of that was based on things like, "Hey, you should go home. Don't speak Spanish here, you speak English here, or go back to your home country." There have been some incidents over the last few years, during the Trump years, that have impacted Latinos and have shaped how they see their place in the country.
Tanzina: Mark, we just broke down the racial demographics here about how Latinos are identifying and how important racial issues are to this population heading into 2020, what about gender? Are there differences in responses between Latino men and Latina women in the polling?
Mark: Yes, there is. In fact, we've been seeing a growing gap in views between Hispanic men and Hispanic women over the course of the last few years. Both Hispanic men and Hispanic women, for example, both support Joe Biden in the upcoming election, a majority of both groups do, but you do see this gap emerging where there are more men or men tend to lean more towards the Republican Party than you see among women.
This is a pattern that you also see when it comes to support for things like, for example, minimum wage or healthcare, where women are more likely to support those policies than their male counterparts among the Latino population in the United States. That reflects something that's more broadly happening in the United States, overall, where there is an emerging gender gap on a number of issues. Latinos, in this case, are much like everybody else.
Tanzina: Mark, does that help us understand a little bit more about the conservative Latinos. There've been a couple of narratives that have been emerging that, quite frankly, I think have missed a lot of the conversation because we know about a quarter of Latinos voted for President Trump, at least Latino men, in 2016. Is this reflecting anything different about how conservative Latinos are feeling about President Trump?
Mark: This is something that we've been tracking, as you've noted, for several years now. This is something that's emerged during the Trump years, but also, more broadly, there has been a level of support for Republican candidates over the course of the years that extends all the way back to the 1980s. Anywhere from a quarter to about 30% of Latino voters, with one exception being 2004, with 40% plus, but in those years, they have supported Republican presidential candidates like George Bush or Ronald Reagan. There has been a conservative thread within the Latino electorate for a number of years, and this year is perhaps much like those other ones.
As you noted, there's been a lot of attention paid to some of the diversity and differences within the population. For example, a lot of focus on Florida with its Cuban vote, which is a more conservative or, at least, Republican-leaning vote, and also, a lot of discussion about the emerging Venezuelan vote in Florida. While still not as large as the Cuban vote, is one that just looking to be just as Republican, if not, more so than their Cuban counterparts in Florida.
Tanzina: Mark, what about the issues that arise when it comes to things like climate change? Is that considered important for Latinos as well?
Mark: Yes. This is actually one of the places where Latinos stand out compared to the US public, overall. In our survey, we found that, for example, 60% of Latino registered voters said that climate change was a very important issue to their vote in the 2020 presidential election. By comparison, 42% of the US public says the same. This is a pattern that we've seen in other surveys we've done on climate change.
Latinos are concerned about climate change. They're concerned, partly, because of the future that that will mean for their children and worried about the next generation has been one of the key things we see that distinguishes Latinos compared to other groups of Americans, who are, oftentimes, very concerned about how their children will be doing financially, what opportunities they will have, and this is one example of that.
Tanzina: Have we noticed any differences between native-born and non-native-born Latinos, Mark?
Mark: In issues like immigration, that might rate higher for foreign-born or naturalized US citizen-Latino registered voters. For the most part, the differences are about the same. That reflects the shared impact of the coronavirus outbreak, both in terms of health issues but also in terms of economics, with both US-born and foreign-born Latinos saw their unemployment rates skyrocket earlier this year.
Tanzina: We'll be paying a lot of attention to this as our series continues. Mark Hugo Lopez is the director of Global Migration and Demography at the Pew Research Center. Mark, thanks so much.
Mark: Thank you.
Tanzina: Also, if you're listening and you're one of our Latino listeners, we want to keep hearing from you. What story should we be focusing on as we continue our series on Latino voters in 2020? Give us a call at 877-8-MY-TAKE, llámanos al 877-869-8253. You can find all the segments from this series online at thetakeaway.org/Latinovoter.
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