7 Things the Media Is Getting Wrong About Latinos This Election Season
1. Immigration is not the most important issue when we vote.
While many Latinos have a familial connection to immigration, which influences their political position on the issue, immigration is not the most important voting issue. Education is the most important issues for Latino voters, then the economy, then healthcare, and then immigration.
2. Most Latinos are not undocumented immigrants, but American-born citizens (and millennials!)
Nearly half of all Latino voters in the U.S. are millennials. They make up 44% of eligible Latino voters. This is important because these Latino voters are not immigrants. They are native-born, and are increasingly comfortable in a bilingual and bicultural world.
It’s also important because young people in general are favoring Bernie Sanders over Hillary Clinton in the Democratic primary. By some estimates, Sanders leads Clinton 66-34 among 17-29-year-old Latinos. Millennials are wary of major institutions like banks, media, and organized religion, and young Latinos could make up a significant portion of that progressive coalition against conventional politics in the U.S.
3. Though media imagery of Latinos often showcases Puerto Ricans, Dominicans, and Cubans, Latino voters are still predominantly of Mexican descent.
Major news outlets and TV shows are based on the East Coast, primarily in New York, where the Latino population can skew Puerto Rican and Dominican — think Lin Manuel Miranda and Junot Diaz. This impacts the interactions of influential reporters and news outlets. Also, the largest Spanish-speaking network in the U.S., Univision, is based in Miami, where there is a higher concentration of Cubans and Puerto Ricans, creating more influence from this demographic.
However, in 2014, of the 55.3 million Latinos in the U.S. 64% were of Mexican origin. Latino voters in California and Texas alone make up 56.1% of eligible Latino voters and those states skew predominantly Mexican.
4. Florida Latinos and Cuban Americans are not necessarily Republicans anymore.
Though Cuban Americans had close ties to Cold War Republican conservatism, they are no longer unanimously Republican. Starting in 2008, more Latinos were registered as Democrats than Republicans in Florida.
Today, younger Cuban Americans are increasingly voting Democratic.
5. While Latinos don’t all share the same political views, the overwhelming majority of us all share a dislike of Donald Trump.
In a summer 2015 Univision Noticias poll, 79% of Latinos found Trump’s anti-Mexican remarks at his campaign announcement offensive. In an April 2016 poll conducted by the Public Religion Research Institute and The Atlantic, 83% of Latino registered voters viewed Trump unfavorably. In another April 2016 poll conducted by Latino Decision, 87% of Latinos disapproved of Trump.
6. Republicans weren’t always so awful at courting the Latino vote.
In Texas in 1998, George W. Bush was winning the governorship with 49% of the Latino vote. In 2000 and 2004, Bush received 35% and 41% of the Latino vote respectively.
In the 2012 “Growth and Opportunity Project,” the RNC identified Latinos as the key electoral group they needed to win over. And groups like the Future Majority Project and the Libre Initiative aim to draw more Latinos into the Republican fold.
7. The impact of Latinos on elections is only going to get bigger and bigger.
Latinos are already having an impact in politics. The Republicans had two Latino presidential candidates this cycle and there are whispers that Julian Castro or Tom Perez could be vice-presidential candidates for Hillary Clinton.
By 2050, however, Latinos will comprise nearly 1/3 of the population. Their numbers are projected to reach 106 million. By then, no one will be able to consider Latinos just a demographic niche; Latinos will be a national constituency.