Politicos, parties still not reaching out to Latinos
Weekly polling of Latinos across the country points to a deepening distrust of Republicans ever since Brett Kavanaugh was nominated to the U.S. Supreme Court, but pollsters say those sentiments won’t automatically benefit Democrats who don’t aggressively court voters.
Latino voters in Texas and elsewhere leaned toward Democrats over Republicans by a 71-20 percent margin, a Democratic advantage that has increased by nine points over a six-week period, the latest tracking poll by Latino Decisions shows.
President Donald Trump’s negative rating increased by 3 points over the period, to 72 percent.
But the tracking polls show neither party is working sufficiently to cultivate Latino voters, who could have a significant impact on many local and statewide races.
In Texas, 62 percent of Latinos reported they’ve yet to hear from a campaign, political party or independent organization, a lack of attention that remained essentially unchanged during the polling.
The polling is sponsored by the nonpartisan National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials, or NALEO, and has a potential error margin of 3.1 percent.
Latinos appeared to have been affected by the high-decibel controversy surrounding Kavanaugh’s confirmation amid allegations of sexual impropriety decades ago.
Kavanaugh’s unfavorable rating grew to 50 percent, compared to a 22 percent favorable rating, in recent weeks.
In Texas, 58 percent of Latinos viewed Kavanaugh unfavorably, a higher rate than in any other state.
Latino Decisions co-founder Matt Barreto said he believed negative views about Kavanaugh were rooted in culture and in what Latinos saw as the disregard of one of the accusers, Deborah Ramirez, who has Puerto Rican ancestry.
“There’s a very high level of respect for women in Latino culture, for mothers and grandmothers and sisters. I think that as the allegations came out, views changed,” he said.
In Texas, where voters continue to follow the plight of hundreds of children separated from their par-
ents at the border, Latinos placed a higher priority on protecting immigrant rights than did Latinos in other states.
Thirty percent in Texas listed immigrant rights as the most important issue facing their community, more important than improving wages and creating jobs.
Texas Latinos also had a more negative view of Republicans in Congress — a 3-1 unfavorable rating — than Latinos elsewhere.
Barreto attributed that sentiment to liberal views of the relatively young Texas Latino voters and to the shift by the Texas GOP toward hardline immigration policies rather than the more moderate approaches taken by George W. Bush and others in the Republican Party when Bush was governor and president.
For instance, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton is leading an effort in court to overturn the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which has benefited more than 100,000 young immigrants in Texas.
Arturo Vargas, CEO of NALEO, noted Latinos’ interest in this election, with 70 percent telling pollsters it’s “almost certain” they will vote Nov. 6.
“What really jumps out at me is all those Latinos who are registered to vote. There is real enthusiasm in 2018,” he said.
But Vargas said he remains unsettled by the fact so few Latinos are being contacted by political parties or anybody else, noting that well over half interviewed have not received so much as a brochure or email about the election.
“The reason it’s troubling is that our research shows that Latinos who don’t regularly vote often say that nobody engaged them, that nobody asked them for the vote. So they are left with the impression that their vote doesn’t matter,” he said.
“There’s a lot of rhetoric about the importance of the Latino vote and how parties are going to engage Latinos and fight for their vote. But they don’t.”
That sentiment was shared by Voto Latino, a Washington-based advocacy organization that announced last week that it had registered 40,000 Texas Latinos in the run-up to the election.
Voto Latino president Maria Teresa Kumar said she’s seeing a re- run of the 2016 presidential election, when fewer than half of Latinos said they had been contacted before the election.
“We’re seeing that there is a lack of connecting the dots, of connective tissue, that is no different, sadly, from the last cycle,” she said. “We have yet to learn our lesson.”
Lydia Camarillo, vice president of San Antonio-based Southwest Voter Registration Education Project, said lack of financial support is preventing her organization from opening a Texas voter mobilization drive with phone banks and canvassers like a new Southwest effort in California.
She estimated it will cost as much as $1 million to ensure at least 100,000 newly registered Latino voters go to the polls — money that Southwest is attempting to raise.
“What is clear is that most campaigns are doing what they are good at — focusing on the white swing vote, independents and the black vote,” she said.
Montserrat Garibay, secretarytreasurer of the Texas AFL-CIO, said labor is the midst of an aggressive outreach program for the midterms to pick up the slack in mobilizing Latino workers.
Since spring, the AFL-CIO and affiliated unions have knocked on 127,000 doors in Houston, Dallas and Fort Worth, she said, an effort expanded last week to San Antonio and Austin as well as to selected campaigns around the state.
“There has not been the infrastructure to get new voters,” she said. “We’re not waiting for the Democratic Party or other organizations to come knock on our doors.”