In the flood of instant analysis of the GOP’s ethnic plight following the election, it has been argued that the GOP should be able get a lot higher percentage of the Latino vote. Latinos would be natural converts to a more welcoming Republican Party, because they have strong families, a great work ethic, are more religious than most Americans, and are conservative on social issues such as abortion and gay marriage.
Shall we look at the numbers?
I’ll start with the General Social Survey (GSS), the most widely used database for monitoring social trends. All the results that follow are based on the biennial GSS surveys conducted from 2000 to 2010.
Latinos aren’t married more than everyone else. Among Latinos ages 30–49, 52 percent are married. Everyone else: 54 percent.
Latinos aren’t more religious than everyone else. Among Latinos, 29 percent attend worship services regularly (nearly once a week or more). Everyone else: 31 percent. Among Latinos, 18 percent not only attend regularly but also say they have a strong affiliation with their religion. Everyone else: 24 percent.
Latinos aren’t more opposed to gay marriage than everyone else. Among Latinos, 44 percent disagree or strongly disagree with the statement that “homosexuals should have the right do marry.” Everyone else: 50 percent.
Latinos are a little more opposed to abortion than everyone else, but not by a landslide. Among Latinos, 12 percent are opposed to abortion under all circumstances. Everyone else: 9 percent. Among Latinos, 21 percent are opposed to all abortion unless the mother’s health is seriously endangered. Everyone else: 14 percent.
Latinos aren’t more conservative than everyone else. Among Latinos, 14 percent describe themselves as “conservative” or “extremely conservative.” Everyone else: 20 percent.
What about the Latino work ethic? For indicators on that, I turn from the GSS to the Current Population Survey (CPS). I restrict the results to the surveys from 2000–2008, before the financial meltdown—that is, we’re looking at work behavior in years in the normal range of unemployment.
Latino men are only fractionally more likely to be in the labor force than everyone else, and those with jobs work slightly fewer hours. Among Latino men ages 30–49, 92 percent were in the labor force. All other men ages 30–49: 91 percent. Among men ages 30–49 who had jobs, Latinos worked an average of 42 hours in the preceding week. All other men ages 30–49: 44 hours.
Latino women are substantially less likely to be in the labor force than everyone else. Among Latino women ages 30–49, 68 percent were in the labor force. All other women ages 30–49: 78 percent. Among those with jobs, hours-worked in the preceding week were virtually identical: 37.3 for Latino women, 37.5 for everyone else.
I can understand why people think Latinos are natural conservatives. Just about every Latino with whom I come in contact is hard-working and competent. I don’t get into discussions with them about their families and religion, but they sure look like go-getting, family-values Americans to me. But note the caveat: “with whom I come in contact.” There’s a huge selection artifact embedded in that caveat—I always come in contact with Latinos because they are on a work crew that’s doing something at my house or office, or at my neighbors’ houses. That’s the way that almost all Anglos in the political chattering class come in contact with Latinos. Of course they look like model Americans.
The data I used for the numbers above come from the most trustworthy, carefully conducted surveys available. They paint a portrait that gives no reason to think that Republicans have an untapped pool of social conservatives to help them win elections.