Commentary

Pa.’s Latino voters won’t be taken for granted this campaign season | Wednesday Morning Coffee

‘Latino voters are not apathetic. But they are unconvinced,’ one advocate said

August 24, 2022 7:16 am

Carol Martinez makes and sells pupusas with her mother, Helen, next to a soccer game at Montour Junction Sports Complex in Coraopolis on 7/31/22 (Pittsburgh City Paper photo by Nate Smallwood).

Good Wednesday Morning, Fellow Seekers.

The data are clear: Latino voters were critical to President Joe Biden’s victory over Donald Trump in 2020, backing by at least a 2-1 margin. They were even more decisive in such key battleground states as Pennsylvania, where Latino voters backed Biden by at least a 3-1 margin, according to research by the University of California, Los Angeles.

But with a little more than three months to go before this November’s midterm elections, Pennsylvania’s Latino vote is wide open. And as new data makes plain, while they’re once again inclined to support Democrats, they won’t be taken for granted.

Rafael Collazo, UnidosUS National Political Director
Rafael Collazo, UnidosUS National Political Director (screen capture).

“Latino voters are not apathetic, but they are unconvinced,” Rafael Collazo, of the advocacy group UnidosUS, said during a Tuesday press call of the challenge facing Pennsylvania’s Big Two parties as they seek to win the support of this critical voting bloc. Half of all respondents (51 percent) to a poll of Pennsylvania voters by UnidosUS and the civic engagement group Mi Familia Vota, said they had not been contacted by either of the major parties as they fight for control of the General Assembly, Congress, and the Governor’s Office.

Of those who had been contacted, 30 percent said they’d heard from Democrats, while only 15 percent had been contacted by Republicans, the data showed.

“Latinos in Pennsylvania will play a decisive role in the 2022 election cycle. For anyone who cares about Pennsylvania’s most pressing issues, clearly Latino participation should be a welcome development,” Irving Zavaleta, the national programs manager for Mi Familia Vota, said.

Both advocates said that should be an inducement for party chieftains to get serious about their outreach — particularly since six in 10 respondents (61 percent) said they’re “100 percent” certain they’re voting in November.

The two organizations polled a total of 2,750 eligible Latino voters nationwide, with a sample of 2,540 registered voters. The poll was conducted from July 20 – August 1, in English and in Spanish, using a mix of telephone and online interviews to assure it reached the broadest audience, organizers said.

Also included were over-samples from such key battleground states as Arizona, Colorado, Nevada, and Pennsylvania. The poll’s overall margin of error was 1.9 percent. The margin in the Pennsylvania sample was 5.7 percent.

(Source: UnidosUS)
(Source: UnidosUS)

While the poll did not ask head-to-head questions about the high-profile races for U.S. Senate and the Governor’s Office, its trend lines generally were favorable for Democrats.

Democrats prevailed in a generic congressional ballot match-up between hypothetical candidates 54-20 percent over Republicans. But with 21 percent of respondents still undecided, “Democrats have reason to be concerned — and there’s some reason for Republicans to be encouraged,” pollster Gary Segura, of BSP Research, said.

Still, majorities of the poll’s Pennsylvania respondents said Democrats best represented their positions on such bread-and-butter issues as public education, healthcare and health insurance, and immigration. Pluralities of respondents also sided with Democrats on election integrity, small business and entrepreneurship issues, and, broadly, “The American Dream.”

And reflecting national trends, 73 percent of Pennsylvania Latinos said they believe abortion should remain legal, no matter their own personal beliefs on the issue. The finding punctures the traditional view that heavily Catholic Latinos would come down against abortion access, Segura observed.

Also notable: Eighty-three percent of the state’s Latino voters say it’s personally important (63 percent very important) for Pennsylvania’s elected officials and other leaders to speak out against white nationalism and white supremacy.

Irving Zavaleta, National Programs Manager, Mi Familia Vota (screen capture).
Irving Zavaleta, National Programs Manager, Mi Familia Vota (screen capture).

But if Democrats and Republicans want to be sure of wrapping up Latino support in 2022, as they did in 2020, they’re going to have to work for it.

“Having consistent, authentic engagement, not superficial engagement, is really important,” Collazo said.

Zavaleta called the data “a wake-up call” for both parties.

“They are underwater when it comes to Latino support,” he continued. “They have an opportunity to reach out to Latino voters. There needs to be more meaningful engagement when it comes to reaching out to the Latino electorate.

Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.

John L. Micek
John L. Micek

A 3-decade veteran of the news business, John L. Micek is the Pennsylvania Capital-Star's Editor-in-Chief. An award-winning political reporter, Micek’s career has taken him from small town meetings and Chicago City Hall to Congress and the Pennsylvania Capitol. His weekly column on U.S. politics is syndicated to 800 newspapers nationwide by Cagle Syndicate. He also contributes commentary and analysis to broadcast outlets in the U.S., Canada and the U.K. Micek’s first novel, “Ordinary Angels,” was released in 2019 by Sunbury Press.

MORE FROM AUTHOR