Latino Voters Of Diverse Backgrounds Were Influential For Both Presidential Candidates

Young people call homes and cell phones in East Los Angeles at a Latino get-out-the-vote project. (Austin Cross/KPCC/LAist)

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Diverse populations of Latino voters made their indelible marks on the 2020 election, holding some states like Florida for President Donald Trump and helping to flip others, like Arizona, for former Vice President Joe Biden.

In other words, the 2020 election could signal the end of punditry that long assumed, incorrectly, that the Latino vote was monolithic.

"For the first time nationally, Latinos became the second largest ethnic racial voting group in America behind whites," said Mike Madrid, a California Republican-focused pollster and a co-founder of the Lincoln Project, a group of Republicans who opposed Trump's reelection. He made his comments on KPCC's Airtalk on Wednesday.

Diversity among voting groups with roots in Latin America showed up in the Cuban-Americans who favor Trump, in Puerto Ricans who favor Biden, and among Mexican-Americans who do not align in their preferences, Madrid said.

Mexican Americans voted in "huge numbers for Joe Biden in Arizona, not so good (for Biden) in Texas and probably even more anti-Donald Trump in California. So even among the Mexican American electorate in three different states, three different stories," Madrid said.

He called this a "really big wake-up call" for campaigns to stop trying to appeal to Latino voters as a homogenous minority group, or bloc of voters.

And while Latino voter turnout grew this year, the very universe of Latino voters is growing. That growth is fueled by young people in states like California, Arizona and Texas, said Matt Barreto, professor of political science and Chicano/a Studies at UCLA and co-founder of the research and polling firm Latino Decisions.

"And that (growth) is going to continue because the largest population of Latinos is under the age of 18. They're 92% U.S. born. And so they're going to continue changing and growing our electorate," Barreto said.

He finds proof of that in a large increase in first-time voters in Arizona, for example, and it could have been instrumental in flipping that state from supporting Trump in 2016 to supporting Biden this time around.

The 2018 midterm election made it clear that when Latino voters turn out in large numbers they can influence elections decisively, said Sonja Diaz, founding director of the Latino Policy and Politics Initiative at UCLA. And it held true for this week's election.

"Some of the early reports were showing that Latinos were instrumental and influential in this election," Diaz said.

Growing groups of Latino voters include Latinas, younger voters and voters who do not have college degrees, all motivated by the issues of jobs, health care and climate change.

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