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What’s Going on With Hispanic Working Class Voters?
And Why Are They Leaving the Democrats?
Hispanic working class (noncollege) voters are emerging as an Achilles heel for the Democrats. Here are some facts about Hispanic working class voters that help bring this challenge for Democrats into focus.
1. In the 2020 election, Hispanic voters moved sharply away from the Democrats. Both Catalist and States of Change (forthcoming) data agree that it was around a 16 point pro-GOP margin shift (two party vote). States of Change data indicate this shift was heavily driven by Hispanic working class voters, whose support for the Democrats declined by 18 points. This pattern could be seen all over the country, not just in states like Florida (working class Hispanic support down 18 margin points) where they fell short but also in states they narrowly won (Arizona down 22 points; Nevada down 15 points).
2. Hispanic voters are overwhelmingly working class, around three-quarters in the States of Change data—higher than among blacks and much higher than among Asians. The working class character of Hispanic voters is even higher in key states like Nevada and Arizona.
3. Indications are that Hispanic support for Democrats, especially Hispanic working class support, has continued to decline since 2020. That can be seen in election results since then and also in polling data. Civiqs tracking data shows Biden’s approval rating among Hispanic noncollge voters down to 38 percent, which is substantially lower than his rating among college Hispanics. And Biden’s rating among working class Hispanics is the same or worse in three states where the Democrats are defending Senate seats: Nevada (38 percent); Arizona (36 percent); and Georgia (17 percent).
4. Also in Civiqs data, just 13 percent of Hispanic working class voters say their family financial situation has gotten better in the last year, compared to 49 percent who say it’s gotten worse and 37 percent who say it’s remained the same.
5. In the latest Economist/YouGov poll, Hispanic voters give Republicans a 9 point lead over Democrats on the generic Congressional ballot. While the poll doesn’t break down Hispanics by education (hardly any polls do), it’s a reasonable supposition, given data summarized above, that Republicans’ lead among working class Hispanics would be even larger. (Some polls show Democrats still retaining a lead among Hispanics on this measure, but even those are down drastically from Democratic performance in 2020.)
6. Some of these findings might seem startling but in truth they were foreshadowed by results coming out of the 2020 election. Some of those results were noted above but here’s another one that provides food for thought. The Pew validated voter survey asked respondents to rate each party by how well they thought that party represented the interests of “people like you”. Among working class Hispanics, the rating for Democrats was 51 percent very well or somewhat well. But Republicans were very close behind: 48 percent of working class Hispanics thought the Republican party represented the interests of people like them very or somewhat well.
7. The same survey also showed something that provides a key to understanding these trends among working class Hispanics. Democrats often seem to act like Hispanics are basically a liberal voting bloc that just needs to be mobilized. This is not true about Hispanics in general and is very far from the truth among working class Hispanics. In the Pew survey, just 20 percent of these voters described themselves as liberal, while 45 percent said they were moderate and 35 percent said they were conservative.
8. These distinctions matter, as careful data analysis always shows. One area where these non-liberal attitudes show up most clearly is on sociocultural issues. From race and gender to crime, immigration and schools, the Democratic move toward the left is quite clear and has made it much easier for Republicans to pry moderate to conservative Hispanics, especially in the working class, away from the Democrats. If anything, this problem has simply intensified since the 2020 election.
9. Combine this with discontent about economic trends, trends which negatively impact working class more than college Hispanics, and perhaps it is not so hard to see why working class Hispanics might be moving away from the Democratic party. Moreover, the working class Hispanic trend could just be the tip of the spear as other nonwhite working class voters also appear to be increasingly in play.
10. Along these lines, consider these data from Catalist. Between the 2012 and 2020 elections—which Democrats won by similar popular vote margins—Democrats’ advantage among nonwhite working class voters was trimmed by 18 margin points. Over the same period, Democrats’ performance among white college-educated voters improved by 16 margin points. For a party that has already sustained drastic losses among white working class voters and has been clinging to its dominance of nonwhite working class voters as proof that it is still a working class party, these are very uncomfortable facts.
But facts they are. Here’s another fact: Hispanic working class voters are overwhelmingly upwardly mobile, patriotic, culturally moderate to conservative citizens with practical and down to earth concerns focused on jobs, the economy, health care, effective schools and public safety. Democrats will either learn to hit that target or they will continue to lose ground with this vital group of voters—and in the process invalidate their increasingly tenuous claim to represent the American working class.