Panelists discuss how Latinos can mobilize in the upcoming election

Dr. John Garcia, a research professor emeritus with the Institute for Social Research, speaks at the Latinas/os and the 2016 Election forum at North Quad on Thursday.

Dr. John Garcia, a research professor emeritus with the Institute for Social Research, speaks at the Latinas/os and the 2016 Election forum at North Quad on Thursday. Buy this photo
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Thursday, November 3, 2016 - 6:35pm

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With the election rapidly approaching, about 20 people gathered Thursday in North Quad to listen to three panelists explain what Latinos can do to mobilize in response to Donald Trump’s campaign.

Panelists also discussed how the community can engage with policy debates regarding immigration, using various studies and statistics.

“Latinas/os and the 2016 Election,” was the second forum in a series of five, organized by the Latina/o Studies Program this year with the aim of creating a space where faculty, students and the Ann Arbor community can come together with speakers from outside organizations to discuss a range of issues most pertinent to the Latino community.

The panel’s participants included John García, a research professor emeritus with the Institute for Social Research, Political Science Prof. Mara Ostfeld and Rackham graduate student Vanessa Cruz Nichols.

García began by outlining five key elements of analysis he performed of Latino voters: political trends, development among the Latino electorate, evolving political parties, the candidates and further Latino effect. He said the most important aspect of the Latino population is that it is relatively young and foreign born, resulting in only 48 percent of Latinos voting in the last election in contrast to 66 percent of white and African-American voters.

Though García noted Latinos overwhelmingly align with the Democratic Party, he explained that only 25 percent believe Democrats are truly committed to their community and working on important issues like immigration. This election cycle, polls show Latinos are much more dedicated to stopping Trump than supporting Hillary Clinton. Throughout the campaign, Trump has proposed several strict immigration policies, such as building a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, and used controversial rhetoric about Latinos .

“What's the old cliché about a house that's not a home?” García said. “Latinos feel like the Democratic Party is a house, but not necessarily their home.”

Nichols continued the conversation by sharing her research on whether “threats,” both in the form of insults and policy, are enough on their own to mobilize the Latino population to stop Trump. She said though many people believe that Trump’s rhetoric will cause many more Latinos to vote, hate alone is not enough to motivate people to vote. She added that she wants people not to cower in fear, but rather to feel energetic about the prospect of voting.

“The idea is that there may be an issue with trying to get people to go out and vote, in large part because threatening may not be enough,” Nichols said.

Instead, she pointed to the results of her research, which found that politicians must couple both threat and opportunity to inspire action. When Latinos were shown a threat to their citizenship, an opportunity to gain citizenship and a mix of the two — followed by the opportunity to send a letter to their U.S. senator — 72 percent sent the postcard in reaction to the mixture of threat and opportunity.

Nichols added that Latinas spearhead community organizing efforts and were the most likely to reach out to both their local and national governments.

Ostfeld concluded the panel by discussing a study she conducted on the effect of the mass shift of Latinos to the Democrat Party and broader patterns of partisanship. She found that as Democratic outreach to the Latino population grows, it is white, college-educated voters who are shifting in large numbers away from voting straight-ticket Democrat. When the white study participants were shown two articles, one describing Clinton’s outreach to Latino voters and the other describing Clinton reaching out to undecided voters, they were 15 percent less likely to vote for Clinton after reading the article about her reaching out to Latinos.

From this data, Ostfeld said it's clear the mass shift of Latino partisanship is contributing to a new racial realignment of the American party system and increasing the salience of white identity.