Will a Minority-Majority Nation Shake Up American Politics?
Published February 8, 2022
Many believe that high levels of immigration from Mexico and the rest of Latin America will sway American politics in favor of the Democratic Party, but this is a gross oversimplification of this demographic. To get an indication of the diversity of Latino political opinions, we can look to the last three presidential elections. Latinos, like all Americans, vote based on what is best for them, their families, their communities, and the nation.
- How have both the Left and the Right come to false conclusions about Latino immigrant voters?
- What have the past three presidential elections shown us about Latino immigrant voters?
- Read “Winning California’s Latino Vote,” by David Leal via the National Review. Available here.
- Read “One in Four Latinos Voted for Trump Last Time. They’ll Likely Do So Again,” by David Leal and Alvaro Corral via the Washington Post. Available here.
- Watch “Latinos, Immigrants, and Elections,” with David Leal, on PolicyEd. Available here.
Politicians have long predicted that high levels of immigration, especially from Mexico and Latin America, will significantly shift election results in favor of the Democratic Party. After all, a growing Latino population helped realign California from a Republican to a Democratic state in the 1990s. And in the 21st century, almost all of America’s population growth will come from “minority” groups, which already constitute a collective majority in a growing number of counties and states.
According to the theory of “demography as destiny,” Latino, immigrant, and minority voters will power a blue wave that realigns national politics in a liberal direction. This is a dream for Democrats and a nightmare for Republicans, but many in both parties believe it will create a domino effect whereby California is just the first of many states that fall to Democrats as their populations change.
After all, the 2020 Census found that 95% of Texas’s population growth over the last decade was from minority groups. Will such demographic transformations inevitably “turn Texas blue” and thereby swing the Electorate College to the Democratic Party?
The problem with such predictions is that politicians in both parties are guilty of oversimplifying reality.
The political future of America is not preordained by population change, and it never has been. In particular, the claim that Latinos will change America because they are dedicated to the Democratic Party and ideologically on the left is false. Latinos are not socialists who are “replacing” Americans and displacing core values like liberty and free enterprise. Latinos want to achieve the American dream, not change it.
The Left and the Right also fail to see the Latino assimilation taking place across the country. Despite claims on cable news and social media, Latinos are moving to the mainstream over time and across generations in politics, the economy, and society.
Both the Left and the Right also have a false view of the kind of public policies Latinos want. While immigrants are frequently in favor of more government aid and social programs, this doesn’t stay the case forever.
In reality, Latinos better resemble the ethnic Italian and Irish voters of the 20th century than today’s coastal liberals. During the 20th century, these new ethnic immigrant groups began as strong Democrats but split their votes over time. Today, Latinos will also make up their own minds about which party to support, and they often have diverse views that can defy expectations.
The last three presidential elections show that demography is not necessarily destiny. Despite predictions that Trump would do poorly among Latinos in 2016, he received about the same share as did Romney. Trump even improved among key Latino constituencies, doing better than Romney among Latinos who were Protestant, third generation, and had lower and middle incomes.
In the 2020 election, the Exit Polls indicated that Trump increased his share of the Latino and minority vote. He may have received a third of the Latino vote, which surprised Democrats who want Latinos to be more liberal than they actually are. It also surprised Republicans who think Latinos are socialists.
So while demographic change is large and real, the political, partisan, and policy implications are up in the air. Democrats should not be too excited, and Republicans too alarmed, about populations that may continue to defy expectations.
Latinos, like all Americans, will vote based on what is best for them, their families, their communities, and the nation. As they continue to move into the mainstream, their votes will increasingly be up for grabs, and both parties will have nobody to blame but themselves if they drop the ball.