Skip to main content

Are Latinos politically conservative? Not really.

Ethan Rarick, director, Matsui Center | August 29, 2014

Are Latino voters conservatives who might be drawn toward the Republican Party?

That argument has been made before, but a useful new report by the ever-valuable Public Policy Institute of California adds to a growing body of evidence in the other direction.

The new PPIC report is based on seven of the Institute’s surveys during the past year, and addresses attitudes and demographic facts on those identified by PPIC as likely Latino voters.

The report’s summary includes the line, “Latinos tend to be Democrats, but many are politically conservative.” I guess the word “many” is open to interpretation, but I would argue the data suggest almost the reverse: Latino voters in California are more liberal than white voters. In fact, they are closer ideologically to African-American voters, and I haven’t heard anyone say that African-Americans are mostly conservatives ready to swing over to the GOP camp.

Here are the key numbers from the new study:

Asked to identify their own political ideology, 34 percent of Latinos described themselves as “very liberal” or “somewhat liberal.” For white voters, that number was 32 percent. The “middle-of-the-road” share was 33 percent for Latinos and 27 percent for whites. For those who defined themselves as “somewhat conservative” or “very conservative,” the numbers were 33 percent for Latinos and 41 percent for whites.

In other words, as compared to white voters, more Latinos say they are left-of-center or in the middle, and fewer describe themselves as conservatives.

Compared to African-Americans, Latinos describe themselves as a little more conservative, in that only 28 percent of African-Americans pegged themselves as right-of-center. Still, Latinos were closer to African-Americans than to whites.

None of this is particularly new. Latinos have been portrayed as GOP-friendly conservatives many times – here and here, for example – and the idea has been debunked even more often – here and here and here — but the new report is an important piece of additional evidence.

Combined with other findings of the PPIC report, it’s bad news for the Republican Party’s efforts to revive itself as a statewide force. The Latino share of the vote is growing, of course, and today’s California Latino voters are going to be around a while: About half are under 45, whereas only about a quarter of white likely voters are.

Whether you like it or not, the GOP must make itself more attractive to Latinos if it wants to win statewide elections with any regularity. Based on these new numbers, the Republicans have a lot of work to do.