The myth of the Latino vote
A growing trend has caught the attention of U.S. politicians and no, it’s not Qanon. It’s the rise in the number of Latinx voters, which political pundits refer to as the Latino Vote. The Latino Vote is an elusive creature that many politicians have tried and failed to catch, insisting on trapping it, but failing to realize that it’s less like a fish and more like the Loch Ness Monster: It isn’t real. The Latino Vote is a gross generalization of Central and South Americans that ignores the diversity of thoughts and values within such a varied body of people; there is no one “Latino Vote.” The narrative perpetuated by the media that all Latinx voters vote straight ticket blue is incorrect for several reasons and harmful to any campaign that believes in it.
My mother and my uncle immigrated from Ecuador as children. When they moved, they both did not know English and went through the ESL program in their public school. They both attended the University of Michigan. Though they had the same upbringing and same immigrant experience, they could not be further apart in ideology. My mother is a moderate, Elizabeth Warren type of Democrat. My uncle is a raging Independent that responds positively towards Trump-like politicians. After the comments Trump made about Mexico sending rapists and criminals, I assumed my uncle would be offended by the situation. He was not. This experience displays several issues with the myth of the Latino Vote. Though there are common experiences, such as immigration, ESL and cuisine, Latinx voters do not always view themselves as a uniform group. Rather than identifying as Latinx, some will refer to themselves specifically as Chilean or Puerto Rican. Within these identifications, there are values held that are not held by the rest of the community. For instance, fifty-eight percent of Cubans identify as Republican in comparison to thirty-eight percent of non-Cuban Hispanics. This disparity can be attributed to the issues each group prioritizes; according to the Pew Research Center, Cuban voters consider foreign policy, health care and violent crimes more than non-Cuban Hispanics. Foriegn policy is a major issue for Cubans, because a hardline foreign policy against Cuba means that Cubans have a harder time visiting family still on the island. This is not as much of a problem with non-Cuban Latinx as U.S. foreign policy with Cuba changes more frequently in comparison to other Central and South American countries.
Latinx voters also hold varying positions on social issues. Religion is an important factor that affects voting patterns for the Latino Vote. More Latinx Americans are actively religious (i.e. going to service regularly) as compared to their non-Latinx counterparts. Typically identifying as Christian, many consider criminalization of abortion to be a crucial aspect of the party they are voting for; older Latinxs hold anti-abortion views to a much larger degree as compared to younger Latinxs. This creates a separation over this single issue alone. Across the board, Latinxs identify as liberal significantly more than other non-Latin Americans and are considered equally as accepting of the LGBTQ+ community as non-Latin Americans. Considering the variation in views of these different social issues, it is hard to determine what factors sway the Latino Vote right or left.
As we move forward into the election cycle, it’s important that politicians consider all the oversights that come from categorizing the Latinx population into one vote. As diverse as the community is, the views within are even more diverse and have the power to greatly impact the outcome of the election.