Latinos see Republicans' and Democrats' different stances on gun violence and abortion. But the lines blur when it comes to distinguishing what the parties stand for overall, a Pew Research Center study has found.
Results released Thursday show that 36% of 3,029 Hispanics surveyed from Aug. 1 to Aug. 14 said there is a "fair" amount of difference between the parties and another 16% said there’s hardly any difference at all, for a total about 52%.
Under half — just 45% — said there is a “great deal of difference” between the parties, and that number is divided almost equally between those who are or lean Democrat and those who are or lean Republican.
The findings come with just six weeks to go before the Nov. 8 midterm elections. Republicans hope to attract more Hispanic votes than they did in 2020, while Democrats are trying to hold their majorities in Congress by keeping the GOP from chipping away more at its Latino vote share.
Pew’s study found Latino registered voters identify or lean to the Democratic Party by a nearly a 2 to 1 margin.
But it noted that Latinos’ future party affiliation remains uncertain, because about 1 in 10 Hispanic voters who identified with either of the parties held political views that were more closely aligned with the opposing party.
Former President Donald Trump stretched his share of support from Latino voters, with many citing the GOP’s economic and law enforcement policies, as well as its position on Cuba, Venezuela and immigration, as draws.
Democrats point to Trump administration policies that adversely impacted Latinos, such as the early failure to aggressively stem the spread of Covid-19, which disproportionately hit Latinos, as well as the failed response to Hurricane María in Puerto Rico and the drop in health coverage gains during Trump's presidency.
Stephen Nuño, a pollster and analyst with Democratic polling firm BSP Research, noted that the survey shows Latinos perceive a clear divide between the parties on their effort to address their needs.
A net 71% said the Democrat Party “really cares about Latinos” — compared to 45% for the Republican Party, according to the survey.
But Nuño said the finding that so many Latinos don't see a major difference in parties suggests that they're not seeing the results of Democrats’ effort.
“So if you’re a Latino in El Paso or the Bronx or Hialeah or Brownsville and you get in your car in the morning to take your kid to school on your way to work and the question is, 'Has your life really changed from on administration to the next?'” Nuño said. “Probably not.”
“I think there’s a strong perception that Democrats are pushing for policies Latinos want, but when we look at the metrics for whether Latinos see their daily lives changing … that’s probably a little bit fuzzier,” he said.
In the survey, 80% of Latino registered voters — and in one in March — said that the economy is very important to their voting decisions in the 2022 congressional race.
This month, health care took over as second, at 71%, pushing education to third, tied with violent crime, which had ranked fourth in March. Gun violence rose from fifth to fourth, with 66% saying it was important to their voting decision.
Abortion saw the biggest rise: Nearly 6 in 10 said the issue is important to their November vote, up from 42% in March.
On abortion, almost 6 in 10 Latinos (57%) said it should be legal in all or most cases, up from 42% in March. On guns, 73% of Latinos prioritize controlling gun ownership over protecting gun rights.
About half of Latino registered voters told Pew they would vote for or were leaning toward the Democratic candidate in their congressional district.
The poll also found that 60% of those who consider being Hispanic extremely or very important to their identity said they would vote for a Democratic candidate. Those who thought it was less important are more split between Democrats, 45%, and Republicans, 38%.
Republican consultant Mike Madrid said the identity numbers show the opening that Republicans are trying to push through to improve their numbers with Latinos. Unlike Democrats, the GOP does not need to win a majority of Latinos to win races. Capturing shares of Latino voters in the high 30- and 40 percentiles gives many GOP candidates the margins they need for victories and "will have tectonic impact," Madrid said.
“These numbers are an indictment on both parties,” Madrid said. “The survey shows what both parties are doing right and wrong, and, while Democrats are clearly best positioned, there’s a huge opening not just for Republicans, but for a new type of Democrat to redefine the party.”