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It seems like every election cycle, especially in recent years, the Latino vote comes into question, it is unknown, a gamble. There are many misconceptions about the Latino vote, particularly in regards to whom Latinos tend to vote for. Ross Douthat, conservative columnist for the New York Times, gives his opinion on the misconception when he says “Namely, that it [the Latino vote] contains a large bloc of voters that can be easily woo’d and won by any Republican who takes a liberal line on immigration, picks a Hispanic running mate, and engages in a little Spanish-language outreach (Douthat).”

The reality is, Hispanics have historically always been Democrats, but according to some political commentators and pollsters, the strength of this party affiliation is now under scrutiny. The future of the Latino vote is in question, making the vote in the 2016 election what some political commentators would say, “up for grabs (Casellas and Ibarra, 243).” Will the vote stay solidly Democrat, or can the Republicans actually “woo” the group over to their side?

If history suggests anything, the Latino vote will remain on the Left. In the 90’s, the Republican Party thought the Latino vote would be as difficult to get as the Black vote; Republicans thought they had little to no chance of winning the group over. Now the party has started to rethink their chances and in recent elections it has strategized on how to get the vote in their favor. “Strategists point to Latinos’ social conservatism and their expected rising economic mobility has signs of potential opportunities for the Republican Party (Casellas and Ibarra, 243).” Their views on the social issues of gay marriage and abortion are more in line with the Republican Party. The famous quote by Ronald Reagan, “Latinos are Republican; they just don’t know it yet,” speaks to the Republican Party’s desire to win over the religious, socially conservative Latino (Suarez).

But the issue is two out of three Latinos identify with the Democratic Party (Suarez). What is it about the Democratic Party that has resonated with Latinos? “The Democratic Party has developed an image of being more receptive to the needs of disadvantaged groups and protective of the needs of ethnic and racial minorities (Casellas and Ibarra, 243).” Democrats have always been considered supporters of immigrants, social service, and the working class while Republicans have the stigma of being associated with an anti-immigrant agenda and severe cuts in social services. “It should come as no surprise that Latinos, who are disproportionately dependent on government services, are skeptical of a political party devoted to shrinking the role of government (Suarez).” Social conservatism won’t cut it to pull in the Latino vote in the 2016 presidential election. Traditionalism on moral issues does not translate to embracing social conservatism. And these statistics don’t bode well either: “From 2002 to 2010, when asked which party is more concerned about Latinos, the percentage of registered Latino voters who have felt that the Republican Party is most concerned about Latinos has never risen above 11%.” Even more interesting is the statistic on U.S. presidential elections with the Democrats averaging 65% of the Latino vote (Casellas and Ibarra, 244-245).

Looking back at the 2008 election, John McCain won only 31% of the Latino vote. And despite question of Latino support for the Black senator from Illinois, Latinos remained true to the Democratic Party despite Obama’s race (Casellas and Ibarra, 246). If history tells us anything, it tells us that the trend away from the Republican Party for Latinos will most likely carry over into the next election. “It now seems that Reagan was wrong: Latinos are not Republicans, and they do know it (Suarez).”

-Karla Towle

Citations:

Douthat, Ross. “Myths of the Hispanic Vote.” New York Times. 06 Dec 2011: n. page. Web. 4 Oct. 2013. <http://douthat.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/12/06/myths-of-the-hispanic-vote/&gt;.

Suarez, R. (2012). Latin Lessons: Who Are Hispanic Americans, and How Will They Vote. Foreign Affairs. 91(5), 134-141.

Casellas , Jason, and Joanne Ibarra . “Changing Political Landscapes for Latinos in America.” Journal of Hispanic Higher Education. 11.3 (2012): 234-258. Web. 4 Oct. 2013. <http://jhh.sagepub.com.libproxy.lib.unc.edu/content/11/3/234.full.pdf html>.

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