Abortion will be a key issue for Latino voters during the 2024 elections, said California State University, Northridge political science professor Jason Morín.
Political candidates, Morín warned, cannot ignore the impact the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, a landmark Supreme Court ruling in which access to abortion was deemed protected under the U.S. Constitution.
“While states across the country are restricting access to abortion, polling shows that a very large percentage of Latinos believe it is wrong to make abortion illegal, regardless of personal beliefs,” said Morín, whose research focuses on Latino voters. “These attitudes cut across religious affiliation, party identification, gender and even region. Many believe that banning abortion puts women’s lives at risk, and many have raised concerns about reproductive and contraception rights.
“What’s interesting is that Latinos view anti-abortion candidates to be incredibly unattractive,” he said. “It’s second only to a candidate being a white supremacist.”
Morín said there were three candidate characteristics that turned off Latino voters—alliance with white supremacist views, support of abortion bans and participation in the Jan. 6, 2020 attack on the U.S. Capital Building in an attempt to stop the certification of Joe Biden’s election as president of the United States.
“It has been argued that Republicans can attract Latino voters on common social issues such as same-sex marriage and abortion because a large percentage of Latinos identify as Catholic,” he said. “But what polls are showing is that Latinos are becoming more progressive on social issues over time. Historically, abortion hasn’t been a top priority issue. But now, with the recent Supreme Court decision and subsequent state-led efforts to restrict abortion, Latinos will likely be motivated to vote for candidates who seek to protect abortion rights.”
But politicians can’t focus on social issues alone if they want Latino votes. Latino families across the country were devastated by the COVID-19 pandemic and have been slow to rebound, both in terms of their health and financially.
“As a result, many have depleted savings or face overwhelming debt. They are worried about their jobs, low wages and layoffs,” he said. “Many have had difficulty paying for basic living expenses like rent and utilities, childcare and education. A large percentage of Latinos are reporting that they are facing food insecurity. They are having a hard time feeding themselves and their families. A fairly large percentage of Latino voters have also expressed a negative outlook on their future and their children’s future.”
“Anyone who wants to capture Latino voters is going to have to address the economy,” he said. That’s true across the country, but also in California where there are growing concerns over the cost of groceries, housing, and rising gas prices.”
Morín said Latino voters have a mixed view of the two political parties and how they can address issues important to them.
“A majority of Latinos believe that Democrats are better suited to handle issues like abortion rights, healthcare, education and mass shootings,” he said. “But they also believe the GOP is better equipped to handle economic issues, though the Republican advantage over the economy is comparatively smaller than the Democratic advantage over non-economic issues.”
He noted that anti-immigration rhetoric by Republican presidential hopefuls and recent efforts to transport immigrants by Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and Texas Gov. Greg Abbott to California and other Democratic states is not helping the GOP’s case among Latino voters.
“Since the election of Donald Trump, Latinos have been subjected to growing hostilities and discrimination,” Morín said. “In 2019, a white gunman, inspired by Trump’s anti-immigrant rhetoric and policies, targeted Latinos at Walmart in El Paso, Tx, killing 23 people. This horrific event is part of a larger pattern of anti-Latino violence and many hold Trump responsible.”
“That being said, although immigration is an important wedge issue, the economy and inflation will likely remain the most important policies Latinos consider in the upcoming election because the COVID-19 pandemic had such a catastrophic effect on Latino communities,” he said.