How can conservatives and Republicans reach out to Hispanic voters in the future?
In a three-part series, I’ve been attempting to answer that important question. (Here are parts one and two.) Before concluding in this third part, there are a couple of areas to address. The first is the relative success and position similarities that the GOP has with Protestant Hispanics. The other is the importance of wealth and/or income to voting patterns.
Most people understand that Latin America is predominately Catholic. What is not necessarily known is that a fairly large percentage of Hispanics in the United States are Protestant – approximately 20%. And 56% of Protestant Hispanics voted for Bush in 2004. Unfortunately, the last two presidential elections have not been so favorable; a majority even of Protestant Hispanics supported Barack Obama over his opponents. This trend is not inevitable, however. President Bush won only 44% of Hispanic Protestants in 2000, and gained 12 percentage points the next time around. It can be done again.
Although Protestants only make up one in five Hispanics, they made up close to one in three voting Hispanics in 2004, making their voice disproportionately strong. A study on the subject concluded:
“We see that evangelical Latinos are registered to vote and report voting in elections at nearly the same rate as Catholics. In addition, mainline Protestants are substantially more likely than Catholics to participate in elections. Together, these results support the conclusion that documented shifts from Catholicism to either mainline or evangelical Protestantism have current electoral importance, with such shifts benefiting the Republican Party.”
Additionally, it has been found that Hispanics tend to become Protestant rather than Catholic as time goes on. Hispanic Protestants are more likely to attend church and less likely to be poor than the average Hispanic, and both religiosity and income are trends that make them more likely to support Republicans.
Furthermore, and contrary to a popular opinion, dropping social issues is not wise for conservatives, at least in outreach to Hispanics, as they would lose some of their best common ground: abortion. Hispanics tend to be strongly pro-life, and – perhaps surprisingly – Protestant Hispanics are the most pro-life of them all.
Those who protest that Hispanics are strongly Democrat should take a deeper look at the polling data. As Sean Trende said, “The truth of the matter is that the Hispanic population has gradually been trending toward Republicans over time, especially when you take account of where the country has been as a whole. This makes sense when you consider the socioeconomic tendencies in Hispanic voting, and the improved socioeconomic standing over time.”
As indicated above, one of the best indicators of party affiliation among Hispanics is income. Poorer Hispanics tend to vote Democratic and Hispanics are more likely to be poor and have a lower average income than the American populace at large, but as they move up through income brackets they become more conservative and Republican.
Fortunately for conservatives, we are about getting people out of poverty and into wealth creation. Conservatives should pitch a message that emphasizes the morality, compassion and justice of the free market. It is important that we return to a free market system that will create wealth for Hispanics and all Americans – even if it doesn’t win all of their votes.
Finally it would help if candidates actually put some effort into asking for Hispanics’ votes. The eminent philosopher Woody Allen once said, “80 percent of life is showing up.” The same goes for outreach. More specifically, Republicans cannot win over new supporters by having their message primarily filtered through a sound bite-driven liberal media. They need to go to communities, show they care and deliver a pure and undiluted conservative message. This goes for everyone we want to win over. Frankly, we’ve been bad at showing up – and that needs to change.
To review what we’ve learned:
1. Hispanics won’t be as big a voting bloc as some predict. The forecasted GOP doomsday is based on demographic trends that are outdated and will probably continue to evolve.
2. They aren’t especially out of our camp. It wasn’t long ago that Republican candidates had a strong showing with Hispanics – not just 2004, but as recently in 2010, and with Tea Party candidates
3. Individual candidates matter. Running stiff, Northeastern candidates who come across as pro-corporation (no disrespect to Mitt Romney) are unlikely to be appealing. Perhaps a Rubio, a Perry or a Jeb Bush is in order.
4. Immigration reform can be conservative and not turn them away. A secure border doesn’t play as negatively as liberals would like you to think. A humane but firm immigration reform plan that encourages respect for the rule of law could win a number of Hispanic converts.
5. Hispanic Protestants show the way. They are richer, more religious, more pro-life and more likely to show up to vote. Plus they are growing in number. Conservatives can start here first.
6. Make them rich and create jobs. The economy matters. Employment and income correlate to conservatism and Republican votes. Most importantly, and unlike liberals, we’d like to see everyone in America succeed.
7. I can’t say it enough: Showing up is the most important change we can make.
So there you have it. A path to an improved showing among Hispanics is entirely possible for conservatives and Republicans. No need to panic; the conventional wisdom is wrong. Some messaging modification and effort, and the GOP does not have to choose between sacrificing conservatism and electoral oblivion. Let’s all take a breather – and then get to work.