Politics and Public Opinion, Polls

To court the Hispanic vote, focus on more than just immigration

Image credit: Narith5 (Flickr) (CC BY 2.0)

Image credit: Narith5 (Flickr) (CC BY 2.0)

Mitt Romney’s loss owes a lot to demographic changes in the country, particularly the growth of non-white voters. Republicans are searching for ways to increase their vote share among these groups, particularly Hispanic voters. Currently, Republicans are debating whether or not to back comprehensive immigration reform, which could include some form of amnesty for illegal immigrants. While it’s true that Hispanic voters care about immigration more than most Americans, Republicans shouldn’t fool themselves that simply changing their stance on illegal immigration will solve their problems with Latino voters. Republicans have less leverage on other issues than they think. The most often mentioned “pull” Republicans believe they have with Latino voters are social issues. But that’s not what the latest polls show.

Hispanics have become more socially liberal over the last several years. In a recent Pew report, half of all Hispanics supported same-sex marriage, while one third opposed it. Sixty-one percent of Hispanic Americans told Pew that religiously affiliated colleges and hospitals should be required to cover contraception coverage.  The one issue where Hispanics seem to agree with social conservatives is the one which got Republicans in the hottest water in 2012, abortion. And even there, only a narrow majority of Hispanics believe that abortion should be illegal in most or all cases.

Hispanics are by no means a unified voting bloc. Religiously unaffiliated Hispanics and Catholic Hispanics are generally more liberal and lean heavily towards the Democrats in their partisan identification. Evangelical Hispanics are the one group that look conservative, especially on social issues. But only 39 percent of Evangelical Hispanics current identify as Republicans according to Pew. How can Republicans grow without alienating their current base among Evangelical Hispanics?  This problem is emblematic of the larger challenge Republicans face on the national stage. Emerging and growing demographic groups tend to be more socially liberal, but groups currently within the Republican camp are socially conservative. And with Evangelical Hispanics, that base is far from secure.

One area where Hispanics are generally more socially conservative is their belief that some of America’s problems reside in the decline of traditional values, according to a recent PRRI survey. But once you take into account the growing liberal consensus on many social issues among Hispanics, one gets the sense that these traditional values have very little to do with politics. These values revolve around the family and family structure. For example, in the PRRI survey, Hispanics are more likely than other racial groups to say that woman are naturally better suited than men to raise children.

Republicans should keep in mind that demographics aren’t the only forces of change in the country, although these are currently working against them. Attitudes shift and move as well. And while those changes are not necessarily permanent, in order for Republicans to maintain a national majority, or even have the possibility of a national majority within reach, they will have to address Hispanic voters in a way that accounts for the more liberal positions on social issues.

One thought on “To court the Hispanic vote, focus on more than just immigration

  1. lets start with basic comparisons with other countries immigration policies
    lets look at the quota of immigrants by country that are allowed by our laws that have not been changed since the 1930′s
    how many legal immigrants should we allow in the country on an annual basis, one percent of our population at the last census of one half percent
    we have people waiting on visas legally to come here by family connection for over a decade sometimes
    an immigrant ,now citizen can petition a brother or sister and she gets in quicker if she never marries and is single , so we encourage someone to live out of wedlock in another country by our laws of legal admission ,
    why are we looking at amnesty instead of reviewing the immigration process currently that is older than the social security laws
    if cheap labor has left for china and other countries , why do we need bring more poor, maybe its cold hearted but canada use a point system and money system to help the economy and not take money out of the system to pay for more poor coming in.
    do we simply need to speed up legal immigration and raise quota on existing laws ,
    why is nobody asking these questions
    i dont recall any review of existing laws of immigration in my lifetime ,just more amnesty, if this really the answer or did we right bad laws and policy in the 1930′s

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