Republican Party bigotry and political activism has closed the so-called voter enthusiasm gap among Latino voters, new polling data reveals. According to Matt Barreto of the polling group Latino Decisions, Republican Party anti-immigrant messages have gone a long way to motivate Latino voters to become interested in the elections and they are trending increasingly Democratic.

Polls and trends among Latino voters, Barreto said, show that Latino voters in the past four weeks are “very enthusiastic” about the election with some 58 percent saying they intend to vote.

In addition, the overwhelming majority of enthusiastic Latino voters say they will likely vote Democratic. On the other hand unenthusiastic Latino voters tell pollsters they are usually Republican voters. Almost 6 in 10 likely Latino voters said they would vote Democratic, Barreto reported.

“Likely Latino voters are trending more Democratic than unlikely voters,” Barreto stated. He noted also that this trend conflicts with mainstream media descriptions of the general voting public. “If you are a Republican who is a Latino, you’re probably less excited this year about your party.”

Barreto identified Republican Party efforts to ignore Latino voters or to actually attack that community in their campaign ads. He pointed to both anti-immigrant language in the Sharron Angle campaign in Nevada and an ad run by a shady front group calling itself Latinos for Reform, which used left-sounding language to discourage Nevada’s Latinos from participating in the election.

Barreto also highlighted double-talk from Republican candidates like Meg Whitman in California’s gubernatorial race and Marco Rubio in Florida’s Senate race, both of whom in English have denounced immigrants and called for harsh anti-immigration policies in English-language ads while in Spanish both have tried to appeal to Latino voters who make up huge swaths of the voting population in those states.

Frank Sherry, executive director for America’s Voice, an immigration reform advocacy group, said Latino voters appear to be unenthusiastic about candidates who say one thing in English and an entirely different thing in Spanish. He also predicted that as many as 6.5 million Latinos will vote in this election, and they could be decisive in many key congressional races, especially in the Southwest and Florida.

According to recent polling both Whitman’s efforts in California and Republican Party-backed anti-voting ads have failed to achieve their goals among Latino voters. Among Latino voters Jerry Brown, the Democratic gubernatorial candidate in California, holds a 36 percent advantage among Latino voters, up from 19 percent in September. Even Whitman herself admits she cannot win the election over Brown without a strong showing among Latino voters.

Barreto also attributed new enthusiasm among Latino voters to civic groups and political action organizations in the Latino community that work to educate voters and get out the vote.


Joel Wendland-Liu
Joel Wendland-Liu

Joel Wendland-Liu teaches courses on diversity, intercultural competence, migration, and civil rights at Grand Valley State University in West Michigan. He is the author of "Mythologies: A Political Economy of U.S. Literature, Settler Colonialism, and Racial Capitalism in the Long Nineteenth Century" (International Publishers) and "The Collectivity of Life" (Lexington Books).