For National Hispanic Heritage Month, Luis Fraga, Director of the Institute for Latino Studies discusses the intersection of Latino identity and politics.
Luis Fraga on Latino identity
Fraga discusses the richness of cultural diversity in the United States, noting that Latinos could be the group to show America’s potential to be more embracing. He goes on to say that it is a common belief that Latinos self segregate by staying within their communities, but the reality is Latinos in the U.S. identify strongly with their country of origin, their panethnicity and as Americans. Typically, each generation of Americans identifies less and less with their country of origin, but that is not the case for Latinos. For Latinos, there is a lot of maintenance of identity through generations. This is evidence, Fraga says, that Latinos present a different path toward integration than our previous understanding of immigrant groups.
Luis Fraga on Latino voting preferences and key issues
Immigration, education and health care are key issues for Latino voters. Fraga notes that Catholic Latino voters depart from other Catholic voters in America. Catholic voters balance the Church’s position on abortion, gay marriage and immigration, and most candidates don’t perfectly align with these positions. Ultimately, he notes, Latino voters are more willing to put reproductive rights and gay marriage aside when deciding who to vote for. Fraga is interested to see how the midterm elections play out with the overturning of Roe v. Wade and the continuation of harsh immigration policies.
Luis Fraga on mobilizing Latino populations to vote
Fraga says voter registration is still a big issue in the community. Because Latinos don’t register to vote in high numbers, they are labeled by campaigns as low-propensity voters. He notes that campaigns typically put more time and money toward groups labeled high-propensity. He says if campaigns put more effort toward groups labeled low-propensity, they should focus on registering and mobilizing by a co-ethnic, someone people trust in their neighborhood, from church or school. If voters are mobilized by someone they know and trust, they are more likely to participate. Fraga says ultimately it is a matter of both registering and mobilizing, and changing the mindset of those who invest during election campaigns. He concludes that until the U.S. builds an infrastructure of participation that represents a cultural shift in how Latino voters understand elections and the importance of voting, Latino voters will continue to under-participate despite their growing percentage of the population.
Luis Fraga on Latino party affiliation
About 25 percent of Latinos nationwide vote Republican. In the 2020 presidential election, there were two main regions where Latinos voted Republican: South Texas and Florida. Fraga suggests the South Texas Latinos voted Republican because many people in the area work for Homeland Security. In Florida, a state with a large Cuban, Venezuelan and Nicaraguan immigrant population, the Trump campaign branded Democrats as socialist, which turned many Latinos away from voting for Biden. He notes that in trying to understand and analyze party affiliation, there has to be a focus on geographic sensitivity. If Democrats want more of the Latino vote, they need to figure out what strategies work best in different pockets of the country.