Large Latino poll finds cost of living and economy top voters' concerns

In a poll of 3,000 Hispanics, inflation and pocketbook issues are most pressing, with housing affordability making a debut in the top five. Biden's job approval is at 47% of those surveyed.


Immigration and border security are considered pressing national problems heading into the 2024 elections, but a national survey of registered and eligible Latino voters found the cost of living and the economy, jobs, health care, crime and guns, and housing affordability were considered more important issues, a new voter survey found.

Congress is negotiating aid for Ukraine, but that is being held up by Republicans who are demanding tougher U.S. border security measures be attached to the aid.

However, when 3,037 Latinos were asked to list the top three issues they think elected officials should be addressing, immigration and border security ranked sixth.

“This is the largest poll of Latino voters, certainly this cycle, and one of the things it shows — not surprisingly, given the income levels of the majority of the Latino population — is that pocketbook issues and economic concerns are driving the list of more deeply felt concerns at the moment, and notably that housing, as a standalone issue, has reached the top five,” said Clarissa Martinez De Castro, the vice president of Latino Vote Initiative at UnidosUS, the country's largest Latino civil rights and advocacy group.

The findings, to be released later on Wednesday but first shared with MSNBC and NBC News, were from a poll conducted for UnidosUS and Mi Familia Vota, a group that has worked for years to mobilize Latinos to vote and become civically engaged. The poll was conducted by BSP Research, a Democratic polling firm whose co-founder Matt Barreto has done polling work separately for Democratic presidential candidates.

The poll asked Latinos to pick the three most important issues for Congress to address. Inflation and the rising cost of living were named by 54% of Latinos, jobs and the economy came in second (44%), and health care was third (33%).

Of those surveyed, 47% approve of how President Joe Biden has been handling his job, while 44% disapprove.

Asked who would better address the issue of inflation and the rising cost of living, 39% of Latinos surveyed said Democrats, and 21% said Republicans.

A shopper holds groceries inside a grocery store in San Francisco in 2022. David Paul Morris / Bloomberg via Getty Images file

"For Democrats, the wakeup call Latinos are sending is that economic issues are a top concern, and Democrats seem to be struggling in connecting with people on economic issues," Martinez De Castro said.

An October New York Times/Siena College poll found the majority of Hispanics thought former President Donald Trump would do a better job on the economy, but that was based on responses from 235 Hispanic registered voters.

A Univision poll of 1,400 Hispanic registered voters conducted in September, also by BSP Research, found that just 27% of the Latino registered voters polled believed Biden, a Democrat, had a plan to deal with the cost of living and inflation, while 30% said they'd heard a little about his plan but weren't sure it would deal with those issues. About a third said they didn't believe Biden had such a plan. A third said Republicans in Congress didn't have a plan.

But in the UnidosUS/Mi Familia Vota poll, 51% said they would vote or lean toward voting for Biden if he were in a head-to-head race with Trump in the 2024 presidential election, compared to 33% for Trump. In Florida, Trump got a larger share of Latino voters, 45%, to Biden’s 39%, while Biden did best in Pennsylvania, 58% to 26%, the poll found.

In 2020, the potential for a shift of Democrat voting Latinos to the Republican party was a common election narrative. However, while 23% of Democrats said they were more open to voting for Republicans and 32% said they were more open to vote for Democrats, the largest share, 44%, said their views haven't changed much.

In the 2020 election, Biden won 65% of votes from Latinos, while Trump finished with 32%, according to NBC News exit polling.

According to UnidosUS, the 2024 presidential race will be the first time 22% of the Latino eligible voters will have cast votes in a presidential election. About a third of the electorate is new since the election in 2016, when Hillary Clinton faced Trump.

"I see this as an opportunity, as an organizing opportunity, in particular for investment," said Hector Sanchez Barba, president and CEO of Mi Familia Vota. "Unidos and MiFamilia Vota keep highlighting the serious underinvestment in the community."

On immigration, 'not either/or'

Going deeper on immigration, the UnidosUS/Mi Familia Vota poll found that about half of Latinos support providing a path to citizenship for immigrants who came to the U.S. when they were children and don't have full legal status and for undocumented immigrants who are longtime residents of the U.S.

A third agree with supporting asylum-seekers and increasing family- and employment-based visas, while 30% support increasing border security, the poll found.

“Even though this is the second-largest group of voting-age Americans, there’s still persistent oversimplification of this electorate,” Martinez De Castro said.

For example, on immigration, Latinos aren't "either/or," she said, yet there is a tendency to say that if immigration isn't in the top five, it doesn’t matter, or that it's the only thing that matters.

“Both of those things are wrong. It still as an issue packs a powerful punch, because many Latinos gauge how candidates or parties feel about their community through immigration,” she said.

“That’s because immigration enforcement laws — such as Arizona’s “show me your papers law” — have also affected Latinos who are U.S. citizens, according to Martinez de Castro, who also said about 50% of Latino voters know someone who is undocumented.

As with other voters, abortion restriction isn't likely to help the GOP capture a larger share of the Latino electorate. The poll found overwhelming opposition to making abortion illegal and support for abortion rights among a diversity of Latinos, including those who are Catholic, foreign born, conservative, Republican or male.

The poll of 3,037 Latinos included 2,707 registered voters and 330 eligible voters. It was conducted Nov. 2-13 in English and in Spanish. It reported a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 1.8 percentage points.

UnidosUS also announced it is launching its Hispanic Electorate Data Hub to help provide years of information about Latino voters and dispel inaccurate portrayals of the electorate.

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