Latinos are disillusioned—and more eager to vote

Image: Reuters/Ted Soqui
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The US economy is growing briskly with unemployment at a historic low, but for many Latinos, the US might as well be in the middle of the Great Recession.

Dissatisfaction levels among Hispanics are almost as high as a decade ago, according to a new poll by the Pew Research Center.

That unhappiness might translate into more Latino voters in the upcoming midterm elections. A record number of Latinos—29 million—are eligible to vote this year. Though they usually vote at much lower rates than the overall population, Pew data suggest they have more reasons to show up at the polls this year.

Falling behind

Part of the reason for Hispanics’ dimmer outlook is economic. While the share of Americans who say they are doing well has grown in the past few years, the share of Hispanics who say so has shrunk. Only a third say their finances are in good or excellent shape, according to the survey.

The fortunes of Latinos who identify as Democrats in particular have taken a sharp turn for the worse, they told Pew.

Unhappy Democrats

Hispanic Democrats are also significantly more likely to be upset about the country’s general direction than Hispanic Republicans.

Part of Latino Democrats’ discontent can be linked to Donald Trump. More than 80% see the president’s policies as harmful to Latinos (compared to 36% of their Republican counterparts.) Only 8% approve of the job he is doing. A large share of Democratic Hispanics—nearly 60%—also feel unwelcome in the US since Trump took office.

Overall, Hispanics reported widespread discrimination—nearly 40% said they were slighted due to their ethnicity.

Eager to vote

There are signs that Latinos’ dissatisfaction might push them to vote.  More than half of registered voters have given a lot of thought to the midterm election, according to the survey. It’s a considerable jump from the 35% who gave that answer in 2014, the year of the last midterms, though still considerably short of the 67% who thought a lot about the 2016 presidential election.

And more than half of  Hispanic registered voters say they are more enthusiastic about the elections this year than in the last midterms, in 2014.  Democrats, in particular, appear more motivated than in 2014: 63% said they would vote for their US congressional candidate if the election were that day. That’s up from 57% in 2014. (Among Republicans, only 29% said they would support their candidate vs. 28% in 2014.)

Trump’s focus on immigration appears to be mobilizing Latino Democrats. Nearly a quarter said they had participated in a protest to advocate for immigrant rights since Trump took office, compared to only 5% of Republicans.

If Latinos do turn out, they will most likely benefit Democrats. More than 60% of Hispanic registered voters are Democrats or lean Democratic, and  more than half of the group says the Democratic party cares the most about Hispanics.