More thoughts on the 2020 Hispanic vote shift

Plus International Elections Odds and Ends

Other explanations for the Hispanic vote shift

In response to my recent post on the issue of the Hispanic vote in 2020, readers offered several additional explanations beyond the three that I examined. I’m going to run through some of them here and offer a few brief thoughts on each.

Gender

This was by far the most offered explanation that I didn’t previously cover. From a Washington Post Magazine article:

Nationally, Biden won Latino men by 23 points but Latinas by 39 points. In 2016, Clinton won Latino men by 31 points and Latinas by 44. In other words, Trump gained among both groups over four years, but he gained more among men.

There’s two separate points to note here. First, Democrats regularly do better with Latinas than with Latino men, as is true for all races and ethnicities. Democrats also do better with white women than white men and do better with Black women than Black men. So that basic fact isn’t particularly useful.

Now the fact that Trump gained eight points with Latino men but only five points with Latinas is more interesting, if not that large of a difference.1 There’s actually been some decent coverage of Latino men in the wake of 2020, with both the aforementioned Washington Post Magazine and the New York Times providing worthy reads. However, a lot of the coverage remains overbroad, offering reasons in general that Latino men might vote for Republicans that don’t differ that much from why white men might vote Republican (the economy, socially conservative views, etc.).

So, I don’t think gender is a particularly useful explanation when specifically looking at the vote shift. What I do think is reasonable is that if Hispanic voters in 2020 were more aligned with their ideology than in previously years, then that change would affect Latino men (disproportionately more conservative) more than Latinas. I don’t think gender is a driving factor for the shift, but it’s not totally irrelevant.

The Catholic Church

This explanation points to the fact that about 55% of Hispanics are Roman Catholic, considerably higher than Americans in general. That number is likely even higher in older, more rural Rio Grande Valley. The church hierarchy in America has become increasingly strident in its support for the GOP in recent years.

Many Catholic bishops in today's US have been so profoundly influenced by Popes John Paul II (1978-2005) and Benedict XVI (2005-2013) that they no longer look toward a bipartisan conservatism, but instead simply and almost exclusively toward the Republican party. 

In theory, this shift could explain the Hispanic vote shift we saw in 2020. However, the changes in the U.S. Roman Catholic hierarchy have been going on for decades, which doesn’t line up with the more sudden shift we saw over the past four years. Why would this phenomenon affect voters in 2020 differently than four years ago?

While this is a factor as to why some Hispanic voters vote the way they do in general, I doubt it had much to do with the vote shift from 2016 to 2020.

Social media disinformation campaigns

The rise of Hispanic focused conservative talk radio and social media disinformation campaigns have also been raised as contributors towards the vote shift. From the AP:

Tom Perez was a guest on a Spanish-language talk radio show in Las Vegas last year when a caller launched into baseless complaints about both parties, urging Latino listeners to not cast votes at all. Perez, then chairman of the Democratic Party, recognized many of the claims as talking points for #WalkAway, a group promoted by a conservative activist, Brandon Straka, who was later arrested for participating in the deadly Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.

In the run-up to the November election, that call was part of a broader, largely undetected movement to depress turnout and spread disinformation about Democrat Joe Biden among Latinos, promoted on social media and often fueled by automated accounts.

. . . Videos and pictures were doctored. Quotes were taken out of context. Conspiracy theories were fanned, including that voting by mail was rigged, that the Black Lives Matter movement had ties to witchcraft and that Biden was beholden to a cabal of socialists.

This is not my area of expertise so I don’t want to make definitive claims one way or another, but my guess is that this was not a major Hispanic-specific factor. Disinformation campaigns were a huge problem among English speakers as well in both 2016 and 2020. It’s possible that there was less organized pushback in Spanish-language social media but that seems like a narrow difference. Ultimately, I don’t buy the idea that this was significantly worse among Spanish speakers than English speakers, or that Hispanic voters would be unusually susceptible to it.

Border Patrol jobs and reduced support for immigration

The Border Patrol naturally employs a ton of Rio Grande Valley residents, who are overwhelmingly Hispanic. This is true, but it’s also been true for a long time, and there’s no reason to think being employed by the Border Patrol would make a voter more friendly to Trump in 2020 than in 2016.

Another related explanation is that Hispanic voters, particularly in the Rio Grande Valley where many families have been there for generations, are less supportive of undocumented immigrants and immigration reform than one would think. That doesn’t seem to be backed up by evidence, though. Across a battery of immigration questions, Hispanics support progressive immigration positions and, importantly, that support grew during the Trump administration. So this explanation doesn’t really hold up.

Odds and ends

Some weeks instead of diving into one topic in-depth, we’ll cover a few interesting topics in brief and provide links for more in-depth reading if you’re interested in learning more. Today, we’ll look at some notable international political stories.

Israeli election result

The Israeli election results aren’t finalized, but it looks like the same stalemate that the country has been stuck in since 2019 will continue as both Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s supporters and opponents failed to win a majority. This raises the very real possibility of a fifth(!) round of elections in the fall.

One factor that puts new pressure on Netanyahu is that, per the short-lived coalition agreement from last year between his Likud Party and Benny Gantz’s centrist Blue and White Party, Gantz becomes Prime Minister on November 17th unless a new government is sworn before then. If there is a fifth round of elections, they would likely take place before November 17th, but they would be truly make or break for Netanyahu; he could not afford another indecisive result.

Read more: In referendum election on Netanyahu’s achievements, victory again eludes him

Volt and Euro-Federalism

The Netherlands recently held elections in which center-right Prime Minister Mark Rutte was re-elected to a fourth term. A notable new entrant into Dutch parliament is Volt, a euro-federalist party that won three seats.

Euro-federalism is the idea that the European Union should move from an informal confederation of countries to a more formal federation, where the EU takes on some or most of the “national” powers currently reserved to individual countries. In some ways, the current European Union is akin to the 1780s Articles of Confederation version of the United States. Volt wants the European Union to take the next step.

Volt was formed in 2017 in response to Brexit and rising populist movements across the continent. It managed to win one seat from Germany in the EU parliament in 2019 on just 0.7% of the vote. But the Dutch election was the first time it had successfully won seats in a national parliament, where it won 2.4%. Volt is still quite small, but it brings truly fresh ideas to Europe and is worth keeping an eye on in future elections.

Read more: A Pro-Europe, Anti-Populist Youth Party Scored Surprising Gains in the Dutch Elections

Northern Ireland swing voters

20% of Northern Ireland residents don’t identify as either Unionist (supporting remaining in the United Kingdom) or Nationalists (supporting unification with Ireland). This group largely consists of:

[women] from a unionist background, [the] middle-aged and middle-class plus groups of students and young professionals.

They likely hold the balance of power in any future border poll on Irish reunification, so a pro-unionist group conducted a series of focus groups to better understand them.

A couple key observations stand out. First, the parties that represent unionism, particularly the largest party, the right-wing, socially conservative DUP, are deeply unpopular and a key reason for those from a unionist background no longer identifying as such.

Secondly, this group has a genuine pride in and affection for Northern Ireland itself. While Northern Ireland as a political entity was created by the British early in the 20th century, the longer it exists and the longer people grow up, live, and die within its borders, the more “real” it becomes. That doesn’t limit any future political actions on any front, but those trying to appeal to Northern Irish swing voters should take this new reality into account.

Read more: New research shows that for ‘neithers’, the problem with the Union is unionists

German elections

Chancellor Angela Merkel has led Germany for an astonishing 16 years but will not be running for re-election when the country holds federal elections in September. Her party, the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) has not found it easy to replace her.

When Merkel first made it clear she would not seek re-election, the CDU elected a new party leader, who would be expected to run for chancellor in the next election. Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, a Merkel protégé, won and was appointed Minister of Defense soon after. However, Merkel’s popularity did not translate and last year Kramp-Karrenbauer announced she would step down as leader.

New elections in late 2020 resulted in victory for Armin Laschet, the leader of North Rhine-Westphalia, the largest German state, and part of Merkel’s more moderate wing. The would normally make him the party’s new candidate for chancellor, but recent poor showings in regional elections have raised the possibility that Markus Soder, the leader of the CDU’s sister party, the Bavaria-based Christian Social Union2, might instead be the lead candidate.

Soder comes from the more conservative wing but has gained popularity while leading Bavaria through the pandemic. He has previously been a repeated thorn in Merkel’s side, particularly during the 2015 migrant crisis, but parties and politicians will forgive much if they believe it can help them to victory.

Read more: Merkel Starting to See Former Troublemaker May Be Chancellor

1

Given that the Washington Post Magazine article relies on the exit polls, it’s possible the distinction in vote shifts between Latino men and Latinas doesn’t even exist but for argument’s sake we’ll accept that it’s real.

2

The CSU only runs candidates in the southern German state of Bavaria, while the CDU runs candidates in the rest of the country. Usually, the leader of the CDU runs as the chancellor candidate and the two times the CSU leader has run, they’ve lost.