Democrats trying to connect with Latinos in the party’s voter base have increasingly adopted the word Latinx, a gender-neutral term popular among academics and social justice advocates.
But according to a new survey first reported by POLITICO, 40 percent of Latinos say the word Latinx offends them or at least bothers them, while 30 percent say they would be less likely to support a politician or organization that uses the term.
The survey, conducted by Bendixen & Amandi International, a Democratic firm that specializes in Latino outreach, showed that only two percent of Latinos refer to themselves as “Latinx,” whereas 68 percent identify as “Hispanic” and only 21 percent call themselves “Latino.”
“The numbers suggest that using Latinx is a violation of the political Hippocratic Oath, which is to first do no electoral harm,” pollster Fernand Amandi told Politico’s Marc Caputo and Sabrina Rodríguez. “Why are we using a word that is preferred by only 2 percent, but offends as many as 40 percent of those voters we want to win?”
Caputo and Rodríguez spend some time dispelling the insinuation that Democrats’ use of the word Latinx might be to blame for the Republican gains among Latinos in 2020, but most people know that the rightward shift among Latino voters goes far beyond mere terminology.
“The only reason they (Republicans) made inroads is they actually started communicating and talking to Latinos, who they just never took the time to talk to in years past,” Chuck Rocha, a Democratic strategist who advised the Bernie Sanders campaign on its Latino outreach, told POLITICO.
Fifty-seven percent of the 800 Latinos polled said they “aren’t ‘bothered or offended’ by the term” Latinx, 20 percent said the term bothers or offends them ” a lot,” 11 percent said it “somewhat” bothers or offends them, and nine percent said Latinx bothers or offends them only “a little.”
The percentage of Latino voters who told pollsters that they were bothered or offended “a lot” by the term Latinx was surprisingly consistent across all age groups, ranging from 24 percent among the 55 to 64 crowd, to 19 percent among the under-30 group. The same is true for those who said the term doesn’t bother them at all: from 62 percent in the 40 to 54 age range to 53 percent in the 55 to 64 group.
Note that only 57 percent of Latino respondents under 30 said the term Latinx doesn’t bother them.
Forty-nine percent of respondents said that a politician’s or organization’s use of the term Latinx makes “no difference in whether I would support or not support.” Only 15 percent said they would be more likely to support a politician or organization who used the term, which is only half of those who said that they would be less likely to support a politician or organization that used Latinx.
Since 2015, Latino Rebels has been covering the usage of the term when it first published an opinion piece called “The Case FOR ‘Latinx’: Why Intersectionality Is Not a Choice.” That led to other essays, including mine, that questioned its usage.
However, many who are against the term are doing it for political reasons, as Latino Rebels Radio interviews with Latino Republicans show.
Such takes stay pretty consistent, as the POLITICO story noted.
“By insisting on using the incorrect term Latinx, progressives are engaging in a type of cultural Marxism, a recast of societal norms,” Virginia’s Republican attorney general-elect, Jason Miyares, told POLITICO. “Latinos don’t use the term—only upper-educated white liberals who hardly interact with the Latino community. I believe that every time they use the term Latinx, they lose another Latino vote.” (People like Miyares, however, tend to forget that “Latinx” has origins and usage in Latin America too.)
Rocha, the Democratic strategist, rightfully told POLITICO that such talk is “overblown.” While 30 percent of Latinos may be less likely to support a candidate who uses the term Latinx, there are doubts that it is the decisive factor. Most people understand that words are just words, and that today’s popular terminology will be either forgotten or replaced with newer terminology whose advocates will consider today’s popular terms backward or clumsy, and probably both.
“At first, very few people adopted [the term Mexican American],” scholar Aaron E. Sanchez wrote for Latino Rebels in August of 2020. “In fact, many people were angered by it and openly mocked it. They believed that Mexican Americans were absurd and reflected a self-absorption and lack of perspective.”
Decades later, “when a new group of activists started calling themselves Chicanas and Chicanos and began demanding social change, Mexican Americans were irritated and angry,” Sanchez noted.
Rocha, who usually tells candidates to use “Latino” or “Hispanic,” depending on which part of the country they’re speaking in, admitted to POLITICO that “if you’re going to sit down with an activist group on the left, you should be conscious of what they’re using, as well, to be respectful to those folks.”
In other words, know your audience, no matter what polls tell you.