The economy, employment, business concerns. These are just some of the issues that matter the most to Latinos in Southern California, and across the country, Dr. Mindy Romero, founding director of USC’s Center for Inclusive Democracy, tells Inside the Issues, according to polls.
“They talk about health care now even more in a state like California, with a majority of people diagnosed with COVID being Latino. They talk about education for their kids and beyond. And they also talk about immigration,” Dr. Romero continued. “It typically is a key concern often cited by Latinos, not all, but it usually is not the number one concern.”
The importance of these issues can vary for groups across different areas. But one thing that is consistent, Dr. Romero said, is the candidate, especially when it comes to immigration.
“Knowing what a candidate’s position is on immigration, even if it’s not the individual persons number one issue, knowing the candidate's position can really matter in terms of telling you a lot about what that candidate stands for and for many Latinos it sends a message in terms of what they can expect from the candidate in terms of respect and concerns of the Latino community,” she said.
In order to reach the Latino community, candidates need to reach these voters directly, through messaging in both English and Spanish, though that’s not always the case.
“In any given election we have polls that tell us that even registered Latino voters, a majority of them, often aren't getting any sort of contact from campaigns, candidates, or even nonprofit community groups, which are fighting an uphill battle with few resources to reach out to Latino communities,” she said. “Now in the era of COVID it’s even more difficult and we think, particularly so, there’s a great concern this is going to disproportionately impact the outreach that Latinos get and therefore, potentially, could influence or impact their turnout.”
Sincere messaging that connects with voters is what a candidate should focus on, Dr. Romero said, with an emphasis on families and kids.
“We have research that shows us that if it’s person-to-person, even peer-to-peer, same backgrounds, same life experiences, it’s multiple contacts over time, what I call ‘deep contact,’” she said. “It’s not just knock on the door and never come back, but it's coming inside, it’s talking to the family. All that has been shown to work and to help transition Latinos into voters. The problem is, in COVID, many of those things that we know work are not available to us safely.”
Prior to the coronavirus pandemic voter turnout in this demographic was expected to be high, much the 2016 and 2018 elections.
“There's a lot of mobilization that's happening around Donald Trump,” said Dr. Romero. “A lot of messaging that was specific to him and kind of a rallying cry to get him out of office, that sort of thing. I always caution against that, though. I am concerned that that doesn’t always work. That, certainly, for Latinos, especially if we’re talking those that don’t typically vote or haven’t voted before, you have to bring it back to issues again.”
Though some may have concerns about President Donald Trump and his leadership, Dr. Romero said that may not translate to a higher voter turnout, especially if these voters are disconnected from the political process or may not believe their vote counts.
“So, the case needs to be made on issues. Tying the vote to what matters and that's where the local comes in. Statewide races, local races can really make a case for why voting matters,” she said.
When it comes to party preference, Dr. Romero said historically, there have always been Latino subgroups that skew conservatie or are solidly Republican.
“So certainly, Cubans in Florida, for instance. Still, the latest polls are showing us that a majority of Cubans are still identifying as Republican. In California, 20 years ago and back, the Latino vote was more evenly split between Republican registration and Democratic registration,” she said. “So it's not just about a candidate, it's about a party, about a platform, about policies that do resonate for many Latinos. Even the issue of immigration, that the rhetoric that we heard, that have turned off and deeply concerned and angered many Latinos. For other Latino, it’s not a salient, or maybe other issues are more important for them or, quite frankly, they view immigration and immigrants differently than some of their fellow Latinos and they also, too, have deep concerns about immigrants and what they may perceive as inappropriate, undocumented immigration policies.”
Let Inside the Issues know your thoughts and watch Monday through Friday at 8 and 11 p.m. on Spectrum News 1.