Insights from the Latino Political Participation Poll

Table of Contents

Background

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.

THE FIVE TYPES OF POTENTIAL LATINO VOTERS

Based on a series of multiple regression analyses, we identified several key factors that help to distinguish voters from non-voters in our data.

  • Political influence/efficacy — Latinos who believe that “my vote has the power to make change on issues that are important to me” and/or that “Hispanic or Latino voters” as a group have that same power are significantly more likely to have voted in 2020 than those who do not share those beliefs.
  • Interest in politics — Latinos who report that they are “very interested” in politics are (unsurprisingly) much more likely to have voted than those who are less interested or not interested at all.
  • Partisan integration — This was the biggest predictor in our analysis. Partisan integration is a measure of whether a person feels informed enough to answer questions about the party system and their place in it: their party affiliation, their ideology, or the differences between parties. Those who are highly integrated can easily answer all of these questions (even if they view themselves as moderate or independent), whereas those who are less integrated feel that they don’t know enough to say. These Latinos are much less likely to report having voted compared to their better integrated counterparts.

The Five Clusters

  1. Should-Be Voters: This cluster looks indistinguishable from a 2020 voter on our key dimensions. Neither influence, interest or partisan integration seem to be a barrier to participation; they have a high sense of all of those. They are older and more educated than our other types of non-voters, and overall are fairly partisan (38% identify as Democrats, 30% as Independent, and 24% as Republican). Interestingly, they are the most foreign-born cluster in this survey.
  2. Politically Unassimilated: The in-betweeners. They do feel like they belong in this country, but aren’t at all incorporated into the political system: nearly 3-in-4 don’t know enough to say which party they identify with, they say they don’t follow politics, and they have only modest sense that either their vote or the vote of their peers has the power to create change. They don’t have a distinct demographic profile, but notably, they are the most likely to prefer to communicate in Spanish.
  3. Uninterested: This cluster is checked out of politics. Not because they lack a basic understanding of the party system (partisan integration is high), but because they express a low level of interest in politics. It is the oldest, most female and most Mexican-American cluster. Nearly half identify as Independent; only 2% say they are Republican and some 1-in-5 don’t know enough to say.
  4. Alienated: A group that is highly knowledgeable of the political system but feels othered. A low sense of personal influence is matched with an increased perception of discrimination against them and a reduced sense of belonging — factors that might interrelate. In spite of it, they believe Latinos as a group are powerful and do report an interest in politics. This is the youngest (83% under 40) and second-most female (57%) cluster, and also the least likely to prefer to communicate in Spanish.
  5. Cynics: The most male cluster (56% are men). Like the Alienated, they have a low sense of personal influence. Differently, they have only middling levels of political interest, on one end, and a high sense of belonging, on the other. This cluster is also the least likely to have a four-year degree (91% non-college), the most Protestant and the most Republican (despite a plurality still identifying as Democrats).

LESSONS

This analysis suggests some lessons for reaching deeper into the universe of potential Latino voters:

Lesson 1: The Need for Education About Parties and Ideologies

Key clusters: Politically Unassimilated, Uninterested

Lesson 2: Increasing a Sense of Influence

Key cluster(s): Alienated; also Cynics, Uninterested and Politically Unassimilated

Lesson 3: Voting While Uninterested

Key clusters: Uninterested, Unassimilated

Lesson 4: Family and History as a Foothold

Key Cluster: Alienated

Lesson 5: The Role of Campaign Contact

Key Cluster: Should-Be Voters

Lesson 6: The Engine of Turnout

To close, it might be helpful to see how the theories discussed above fit within a larger model of turnout.

Figure from The Turnout Gap (Fraga)
Figure from The Turnout Gap (Fraga)

THAT’S ALL FOR NOW

Remember that for actionable takeaways of this article, see “For Organizers: Considerations for Latino Mobilization.

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Equis Research

Equis Research

Creating a better understanding of the Latino electorate