Recently, some data has been released which has caused people to think that Hispanic Americans are going to vote republican in the 2022 and 2024 elections at greater rates than they have in recent history. This would be quite a significant change. Based on NYT exit polling, between 1972 and 2016 the Hispanic vote for democrats never fell below 61%. (Exit polling for 2020 is biased in favor of republicans because so many democrats voted by mail.)
But according to a recent WJS poll, Hispanics report planning to vote for Biden over Trump by a statistically insignificant one point margin (44% for Biden, 43% for Trump). The same poll finds that 37% of Hispanics would support a generic republican or democrat for congress. This tie would represent a radical departure from 2018 when Hispanics broke for the democrats by 40 points (Krogstad et al., 2018).
The extremity of these results is caused mostly not by Hispanics coming over to republicans but by them abstaining from favoring democrats. Similarly, according to Gallup polling, the Party ID of Hispanics was inline with expectations in early 2021 but over the course of last year a modest move away from democrats, but not to republicans, was evident (Newport, 2022).
This is consistent with favorability data showing that over the course of 2021 Biden’s favorability fell among Hispanics from nearly 70% to just below 50% (Skelley, 2021).
So multiple sources seem to indicate that Hispanics are moving away from the Democrat party possibly by so large of a margin that they on net wouldn’t benefit either major party. These shifts are so large they more than make up for the usual degree of error in polling for elections a year away (Erikson, 2016).
We might also note that according to an exit poll by Fox, Hispanics voted republican in the Virginia Governor race by a 12 points margin. This too would be a large change relative to historical norms, but these exit polls will be somewhat biased in favor of republicans because a large number of people voted by mail in that election.
Such a change requires an explanation. For years, Republicans have wanted Hispanics to vote republican on the basis of right wing social views, but such social views have been unrelated to how Hispanics have voted (Last, 2018)
(Columns 5 and 6 are Hispanics party ID is being predicted with a positive coefficient indicating the variable is related to increased republicanism, columns 1 and 2 are Asians, 3 and 4 are Whites, 7 and 8 are Blacks).
More generally, even among self identified conservatives Hispanics on net have identified as democrat (Last, 2018).
This has even been true of Hispanics who oppose immigration (Last, 2018).
And historically analyses of support for congressional candidates based on their NumbersUSA grade finds that Hispanics are no more likely to vote for Republicans when Republican politicians are pro-immigration (Hawley, 2013). (A is very anti-immigration, F is very pro-immigration).
Against this background, a shift in Hispanic voting seems surprising. A point to raise in favor of skepticism is that the GOP currently has a rather ambiguous existence and there’s not a strong sense of what they are about or who they are best represented by. The departure of Trump has also made it harder for the media to constantly engage in plausible intense negative coverage of the GOP. These numbers might move back towards the norm once the GOP takes a more concrete form.
It’s also worth noting that there hasn’t been any historical analysis of how Hispanic voting relates to COVID since it is a new issue. According to some polling, COVID is now the top issue for minorities. But polling shows only 24% of Hispanic Americans disapprove of how Biden has dealt with COVID policy.
Critical Race Theory is also a new issue, kinda. At least, it being talked about a lot in those terms is new. YouGov polling finds that, among those who know what Critical Race Theory is, 53% of Hispanics have an unfavorable view of it compared to 22% of Blacks. Past research on how Hispanic Americans feel about affirmative action and related policies has produced mixed results, so it is not that shockingly that they might oppose CRT. Moreover, while Hispanics who are right wing on issues like abortion, immigration, and gay marriage still vote democrat Hispanics who are right wing on race do not (Last, 2018).
Evidence on how economically right wing Hispanics vote has been mixed, it depends on the specific question being asked. But satisfaction with the economy is usually important in how people vote. Gallup finds economic satisfaction fell a good deal in the last year. And YouGov polling indicates only 29% of Hispanics think the economy is getting better. Dissatisfaction with the economy might explain why Hispanics seem to be moving away from democrats more than moving to republicans.
If I had to guess, I’d say that the polling data probably is overstating the change in Hispanic voting but that a more moderate change has occurred and that the most probable explanation is some combination of racial politics and the economy. However, figuring out how groups will vote is hard and finding out why they vote the way they do is even harder, so I wouldn’t put much confidence in these conclusions even if I think they are the best guesses based on the data available at this time.