A study from the UCLA Latino Policy & Politics Institute (LPPI) analyzed the electoral choices of Latino voters in U.S. Senate races across five states in 2020: Arizona, Colorado, Georgia, New Mexico, and Texas. The findings show that a notable percentage of the growing Latino electorate split its ballots between parties when choosing Senate candidates and presidential candidates.
The report —written by Dr. Rodrigo Dominguez-Villegas, LPPI’s director of research, and Michael Rios, a data scientist with the UCLA Voting Rights Project— concludes that these swing voters can be decisive in flipping or securing Senate seats for Democrats in future races.
According to the data, in Arizona, Colorado, and Georgia, Latino voters cast their ballots for Democratic Senate candidates over Republican candidates by a 3-to-1 margin. In all states analyzed except Texas, Latino support for Democratic candidates for Senate in 2020 was greater than for then-presidential candidate Joe Biden.
In Arizona, Colorado, and New Mexico, two to three percent of Latinos voted for President Donald Trump and voted for the Democratic Senate candidate in their state, which, according to the report, “does not confirm a massive or uniform defection away from the Democratic party.”
The report acknowledges that Latinos are not a monolith, which means that, due to its diversity, the voting preferences of the community are not easy to put all in the same bag.
On the gains won by Trump among the Latino voters in 2020, the report says that it is still too early to know what that means and that it is still to be shown if it can be labeled as the start of an actual long-lasting trend of Latino support for the Republican Party, or if it was merely a return to the level of Latino support that the party enjoyed before Trump’s 2016 campaign.
“Our report further contradicts the premise that the Latino electorate had a uniform shift toward Republican candidates,” the authors wrote.
In states including Arizona, Colorado, Georgia, and New Mexico, Latino voters played a vital role in flipping or securing Senate seats for Democrats in 2020.
For instance, in New Mexico, the state with the largest share of Latino residents, Democratic Rep. Ben Ray Luján defeated Republican candidate Mark Ronchetti to win his seat in the U.S. Senate.
In Georgia, Latinos represent only 3.6 percents of the state’s voters. According to the report, “despite their relatively small numbers, Latino voters were pivotal in the Presidential election, which in Georgia was decided by fewer than 12,000 votes.”
In Texas, where Latino voters represent 28.4 percent of the state’s eligible voter population and almost three million cast a ballot in the 2020 general election, Republican Sen. John Cornyn defeated Democratic challenger MJ Hegar in the Senate race. The report says that, in spite of this Republican win, “the Latino electorate was influential enough to make the Democratic challenger competitive.”
With the number of Latino registered voters growing every year —becoming the second largest racial or ethnic voting bloc after non-Latino whites in states like Arizona— the report says that any party who wants to secure the support of Latino voters needs to improve its outreach to the community.
“Heading into the 2022 midterm election cycle, candidates from all political parties must understand the growing importance of this electorate and the need to invest in culturally competent and sustained voter engagement and mobilization strategies if they want to earn their votes,” the report concluded.
Juan de Dios Sánchez Jurado is a summer correspondent for Futuro Media. A writer, lawyer, and journalist from Colombia, he is currently studying at the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism at the City University of New York.