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Democrats’ Hispanic Problem: The Sequel
Still Not Fixed!
Democrats are feeling pretty good about themselves these days after a 2022 election that went way, way better than they (and most observers) thought it would. Those on the Democratic left, in particular, are congratulating themselves that they were right about…well, everything. Ezra Levin, who co-founded the activist progressive group, Indivisible said:
The great thing about having your strategy being proven correct is that you don’t have to rethink your strategy…We would have, if the red wave materialized. But it didn’t have the potency that we thought.
God forbid anyone should do any rethinking. That would never do.
The fact remains, however, that while they held the Senate (and may possibly pick up a seat), they lost the House, as well as the nationwide popular vote by 3-4 points. That’s a swing of 7-8 points toward the Republicans compared to Biden’s 4 point national advantage in 2020. The Senate map for the Democrats in 2024 looks absolutely terrifying: Democrats will have to hold seats in a wide range of red and purple states—Arizona, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, Nevada, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Wisconsin and West Virginia. The Republican seats that will be up are all in solid GOP states, with the possible exceptions of Texas and Florida (and we saw what just happened there). Plus there’s no guarantee that the 2024 Democratic nominee—likely Biden—will get to run again against the Democrats’ preferred opponent, Trump. It could be someone much tougher to take down.
In light of this, it’s worth considering the possibility that Democrats did not, in fact, fix all their problems in 2022 and that some of these may be lurking beneath the surface to undermine their chances—perhaps fatally—in 2024. One such problem is the Democrats’ Hispanic voter problem. In 2020, Democrats’ advantage among Hispanic voters declined nationwide by 16 points relative to 2016. Democrats had hoped to stop the bleeding in 2022. Did they?
It does not appear so. Prior to the election, the AEI demographics tracker, which averages poll subgroup results, found the Democratic Congressional margin among Hispanic voters consistently 7-9 points below its 2020 level and 17-19 points below its 2018 level. Results from AP/NORC VoteCast indicate that the drop in the 2022 election was actually larger than that foreshadowed by the pre-election data. These data show Democrats carrying Hispanics nationwide by just 56-39 in 2022, a 12 point decline in margin relative to 2020 (18 points relative to 2018). For what it’s worth, the less-reliable network exit polls, show an identical decline in Hispanic support between 2020 and 2022.
Digging more into the available data, some other troubling signs can be discerned beneath this broad national trend (all data from VoteCast except election returns).
1. Democrats appeared to have done particularly poorly among Hispanic men in 2022. In the VoteCast data, Democrats carried this group by a scant 6 points (51-45).
2. Democrats did worse among Hispanic working class (noncollege) voters than college voters. They carried Hispanic working class voters by just 15 points, compared to 21 points among their college-educated counterparts. Compared to 2018, Democratic Hispanic working class support is down 20 margin points, more than double the decline among Hispanic college voters (9 points).
3. With a few exceptions like Nevada, Democratic decline in Hispanic support can be seen across states. The most striking example of this is in Florida where DeSantis carried the Hispanic vote by 13 points, a 22 point swing from Biden’s 9 point margin among this group in 2020. He carried heavily Hispanic Miami-Dade county, historically the Democrats’ firewall, by 11 points. He carried Osceola County by almost 7 points—a county where Puerto Ricans, among the most Democratic of Hispanic subgroups, loom large. Shockingly, statewide DeSantis actually split the Puerto Rican vote 50-50 with Democrat Charlie Crist.
4. Democrat Val Demings also lost the Hispanic vote in Florida to Marco Rubio by 11 points. And statewide Democrats lost the Hispanic House vote by 7 points to the Republicans.
5. In Texas, Republicans got 43 percent of the statewide House vote among Hispanics, losing it by only 10 points to the Democrats. Beto O’Rourke did somewhat better than Biden in the Rio Grande Valley but still carried Hispanics statewide by just 14 points.
6. The poor showing of Democrats in the Hispanic Texas House vote was driven by working class Hispanics. They gave Democrats a mere 6 point margin statewide (51-45) compared to 24 points among college Hispanics (61-37). But working class Hispanics are three-quarters of the Texas Hispanic vote.
7. In Arizona, the GOP got 41 percent of the statewide House vote among Hispanics, cutting their deficit with this demographic to 13 points. Democrats’ House margin was down 6 points from Biden’s margin among this group in 2020. Katie Hobbs also ran behind Biden in her Hispanic support while Mark Kelley did a little better. But Kelley’s healthy margin of victory (5 points) is clearly attributable to a sharp improvement in support among white college graduates relative to Biden.
8. Even in California, Democratic House candidates in 2022 ran 11 points behind Biden’s margin in the state in 2020. This decline can be illustrated by looking as some heavily Latino CDs in Los Angeles County (vote counts ongoing): CA-31, Biden +31, 2022 House +16; CA-35, Biden +28, 2022 House +12; CA-38, Biden +30, 2022 House +13; CA-42, Biden +46, 2022 House +34.
These data suggest Democrats are far from out of the woods in terms of their Hispanic voter support. In fact, they indicate the problem is getting worse. More broadly, Democrats would be well-advised to look at these results in the context of their ongoing decline in working class support among nonwhites. AP VoteCast estimates the decline in Democrats’ advantage among the nonwhite working class as 14 points between 2020 and 2022, 23 points between 2018 and 2022 and (splicing in some Catalist data, which are consistent with VoteCast data where they overlap) an astonishing 33 point drop between 2012 and 2022.
I’d say that qualifies as a problem—and one that’s very, very far from being fixed.