Below are ideas for organizers to consider in their programs to mobilize Latinos. They build on results from a national poll of 2,800 eligible Latino voters that looked to identify actionable factors to explain the Latino turnout gap.¹
Latinos consistently turn out at lower rates than other racial/ethnic groups. For example, only 50% of eligible Latinos voted in the 2020 election, per Catalist estimates, a rate significantly lower than that of non-Latino AAPI (62%), Black (63%) or White (74%) voters.
However, traditional explanations of non-voting rooted in demographic and socioeconomic factors have proved insufficient to explain away this gap, and traditional mobilization tactics have yet to succeed in fully closing the distance.
That is why this study focused on compelling insights that might be unique to Latinos and actionable for organizers trying to improve their GOTV efforts, specifically focused on values, norms, or perceptions that can help groups build creative mobilization programs.
For more detailed analysis of the points below, see an accompanying article, “Insights from the Latino Political Participation Poll.”
IDEAS FOR ORGANIZERS
- People don’t all abstain or participate for the same reasons. Efforts to activate more potential Latino voters should consider the diversity of non-voters: different psychological barriers — and opportunities — lie within different segments of the population.
- A portion of non-voters — by our estimates about 1-in-5 — are “should-be” voters: they share many of the attributes of voters, but need a nudge. Social pressure and plan-making (GOTV best practices) are likely to be the best way to mobilize this tier of potential voter. This isn’t rocket science — it’s about campaign contact. (A lesson from Equis’ work on Latino data: one way to reach more Latino voters, beyond the usual suspects, is by taking a broader approach to targeting; for those who depend on voter file lists, it means not adhering strictly to a list of voters identified as Latino by race models, or to a narrow use of other predictive modeling, like turnout scores.)
- A sense of influence is a meaningful difference between otherwise similar voters and non-voters: Latinos who believe their vote has the power to make changes in their community are more likely to vote than those who don’t. For women, it is more a matter of individual influence: those who doubt that their single vote matters are held back from participating. For men it tends to be a matter of group influence — doubting that Latinos have power. While more work is needed to test specific messages that can increase a sense of influence/efficacy, for now we suggest using proof points of how previous action led to change. One example is the Race Class Narrative’s “we’ve done it before” message (e.g. “We need to join together… to fight for our future, just like we won better wages, safer workplaces, and civil rights in our past.”)
- For some Latinos, a weak sense of influence seems to go hand-in-hand with a perception that they are discriminated against in this country. It is worth keeping in mind that different emotional responses to feeling excluded can lead to different behaviors: anger is mobilizing, while fear is demobilizing. To move those who feel othered to action, research suggests that the key is tapping into anger, and combining it with a message of hope about what action can achieve.
- Where we saw the biggest cleavage, all else being equal, is along lines of partisan information: those who don’t know enough to say what party they identify with, their ideology, which party cares more about them, or whether there is a meaningful difference between the parties, are the least likely to participate. More education and persuasion is needed about the differences between the parties and ideologies, especially in-language, as a way to increase turnout.
- Unsurprisingly, interest in politics is another significant divider. Increasing interest is a heavy lift for a campaign, especially on a short timeline. Rather we believe that the imperative is to create “permission” for somebody to vote, even if they are not deeply interested in politics. (Uninterested people vote all the time; it is a matter of how people perceive who is “entitled” to vote.)
- Large majorities of people feel a sense of obligation to their family and ancestors — but how they believe they should honor their families can differ. Only a subset of Latinos explicitly identify voting as one of the best ways to honor their families. However, a much broader swath of the population sees working hard and pursuing educational opportunities as the best ways to honor the legacy of those who came before them — all of which are core values that can be tied to politics in deep and meaningful ways. There are bridges to be built here between the values that these potential voters already hold and their political participation.
- How do you deliver permission to vote, or connections to history, or any of these other abstract concepts? You can’t go wrong with storytelling, especially from authentic — and unexpected — messengers.
¹ Equis and Sojourn Strategies designed and executed this study at the invitation of the Democracy & Power Innovation Fund. We worked with a set of organizing groups (Florida Rising, Make the Road Nevada, Poder NC, LUCHA, Voces de la Frontera, and PICO California) and a team of researchers (Gabriel Sanchez, Matt Barreto and Sylvia Manzano from BSP Research, and Tyler Reny at Claremont Graduate University)