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A few reactions to the Equis report on Latinos in the 2022 midterms
The firm's talk of "stability" is happy talk for its Democratic client base. Its own data shows a more Republican Presidential-year Hispanic electorate waiting in the wings.
Equis’ exhaustive post-election reports on the Latino vote are always a must-read, and this year’s is no exception. I don’t agree with the firm’s political perspective, but think they’re being honest with their work. The report’s conclusions strike me as careful, measured and not at all overhyping a partisan agenda. That’s the sign of a good research product, even if it’s not always optimal for social media eyeballs and clicks.
The picture painted by the Latino vote results in the 2022 midterms is one of stability, writes Carlos Odio of Equis. Despite the strong hype surrounding Trump’s breakthroughs with Hispanics in 2020, Republicans did no better than they had in 2020 in key 2022 midterm battlegrounds. If we were watching a slow-motion collapse of Democrats with Latino voters, we might expect further erosion from the new 2020 baseline. And for Democrats worried about their Latino losses, this comes as a relief.
This narrative of stability might be accurate on the surface, but whether you consider it to be good news for Democrats is a matter of interpretation. An equally valid counter-argument would be that Republicans made gains with Latino voters because of factors specific to Trump and the 2020 issue environment, with concerns about public safety and the Black Lives Matter protests displacing Trump’s unhelpful immigration rhetoric from 2016. The fact that Latinos showed up in equal or greater numbers for downballot Republican candidates in 2022 shows that the Latino trend is broader and more durable than Donald Trump, and that’s good news for Republicans whether or not he’s the nominee in 2024.
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A key finding on this comes towards the end of Equis’ 134-slide presentation. The midterm drop-off Hispanic voter leans more Republican in the 2024 presidential race than those who voted in 2022. So, if Republicans matched their 2020 performance with a midterm electorate that leaned more Democratic, that still shows that the Latino vote is trending right.
Equis breaks the 2022 nonvoter into two main groups: “super-voters” who voted in 2018 and 2020 but skipped 2020 and those who only voted in 2020 that did not vote in 2022. The super-voter group leans further left in the 2024 presidential race, as 2018 “Blue Wave” voters likely skewed Democratic. But the newer, less engaged 2020-only voter leans significantly more towards a generic Republican in 2024, even as they are more likely to voice the conventional belief that Democrats are “better for Hispanics.”
Nor is this surprising. I’ve tracked changes in partisan voter registration trends among Hispanics, and the graph across states is up-and-to-the-right for Republicans. Hispanics who only became engaged in 2020 or later have registered Republican in greater numbers than those who were registered before. The graph below shows two-way partisan voter registration over the last decade among Hispanics for newly registered voters. There have been increases in every state, and particularly sharp increases in Florida, Arizona, and Pennsylvania, albeit the latter starts from a low base.
Of course, none of this matters if you can’t get these new voters to vote, and Odio and his team makes the convincing argument that Democrats had something of a turnout advantage among Hispanics in 2022. That’s also not too surprising: In contrast to the progressive narrative about young and low-propensity voters, among Hispanics, it’s often older voters who are the most partisan Democrats, so they stand to benefit from a lower-turnout midterm environment. I don’t view this as a specific mobilization failure by Republicans, but part of a generalized off-year turnout trend. Equis deserves credit for breaking the data down in such a way (validated 2022 voting and non-voting, or turnout propensity scores) that helps us see that turnout trends among Hispanics are often the opposite of the general voting population. Among Latinos, a younger, more mobilized electorate might actually benefit Republicans.
I found Equis’s slides on issue drivers interesting, not because they said anything unique about Latino voters, but because I think they reveal the interesting ways that issue priorities are really a proxy for political knowledge, not a driver of turnout in and of themselves (though Equis tries to make the case that they are).
Equis shows that Republicans had an advantage among economy and cost-of-living voters, but these voters were far less likely to turn out than the Democratic-leaning voters who voted on abortion, “stop MAGA,” or democracy. This was sort of the conventional wisdom before the election: that the Dobbs/democracy voters were super-educated, hyper-polarized liberals who would vote no matter what, so leaning into these issues was a waste of time. Equis does do some fancy regression modeling to take into account factors like age and previous turnout to show that economy-minded voters really did show up less than expected, and Dobbs/democracy voters more, controlling for all other factors. I would argue that the answer to the top issue question itself is a latent variable for political knowledge and turnout. In 2021 and 2022, it was difficult for anyone to escape the economy or cost of living as an issue: you felt it each time you filled up your car or went to the grocery store. But the people tuned into “threats to democracy” skewed very MSNBC, not only in the sense of being partisan Democrats, but in seeking out more niche, upscale media outlets covering these issues disproportionate to the economy. Abortion did have more resonance with the low-propensity voter, but it wasn’t an issue that universally touched everyone like inflation did. And so the people who said that the economy was their top priority likely skewed low-information and low-turnout in a way that wasn’t captured by other ex-ante variables.
The report did show an unalloyed bright spot for Republicans, one we already knew about: Florida. While Latinos elsewhere largely perceived Democrats to be making more of an effort to win their vote than in years past, the answers were markedly different in Florida.
And what was that effort? Partly, it was that Ron DeSantis and his allies crushed Charlie Crist and the Democrats on the Spanish-language airwaves:
And it got results. DeSantis’ favorables among Spanish-dominant Hispanics likely to be consuming Telemundo and Univision moved from +7 to +34 from June through November, while Crist’s favorables tanked.
This is a grab bag of treats no matter which candidate you support in the 2024 GOP primary. The trends among Hispanics are resilient to changes in Republican candidates from 2020 to 2022, assuming a baseline level of candidate quality. (For instance, the report notes that Hispanic voters in Arizona liked Blake Masters less than a generic Republican, but that was true also of the electorate overall.) Trump already has a track-record with Hispanic voters, and the trends that first materialized during his re-election campaign are continuing. And the report confirms DeSantis’s serious game with Hispanic voters in Florida, not only in terms of having an appealing message for them, but actually being serious about the mechanics of winning Latino voters, devoting significant resources to Spanish-language advertising. The result was that he was able to exceed Trump’s 2020 performance, not just among voters overall, but much more so among Hispanics.