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Latino Voters Are Leaving The Democratic Party


New data from the 2020 election shows a big swing in one voting group away from the Democratic Party. Latinos made a significant rightward turn, and partisans of both parties are looking hard at why. One of them is David Shor. He is the head of data science at OpenLabs R&D, a progressive nonprofit. And he joins us now to talk about it. Hello.


GARCIA-NAVARRO: So after the election, there was this narrative that the Latino vote swung right because of Cubans in Florida or Mexican Americans in South Texas. But what did you find when you looked precinct by precinct?

SHOR: Precinct by precinct, you know, what we really found was that even though there were particularly market shifts, you know - in South Texas, there were 30-point swings in many counties. You know, there were counties that had voted for Democrats solidly in the 70 to 80% percent range since the 1890s that Trump either won or came very close to winning. And in South Florida generally and Florida in general, there was something like a 13 or 14% swing. That said, basically everywhere where there were large concentrations of Hispanic voters, there were large swings in the 6 to 9% range. And, you know, that ranges from, you know, the Bronx in New York to Arizona to Massachusetts to California. This was a national trend that happened basically everywhere. And, you know, one of the biggest predictors of switching from voting for Clinton in 2016 to voting in Trump were attitudes toward crime, attitudes toward policing. You know, I think that that's a microcosm for, like, a larger story.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: So when you spent time talking to these folks, what did they tell you was behind that? I mean, was it the sort of racial justice issues that defund the police was just not a popular message to them?

SHOR: I think the simplest way to look at this is ideology. I think that in the last four years, as the clout of college-educated white people in the Democratic Party has increased, you know, the Democratic Party brand has increasingly been associated, you know, with liberalism in a way that it might not have been before. And I think that there's a lot of micro stories. I think that, you know, if you look at defund the police, that's a highly ideological issue where liberals are on one end, and conservatives are on the other. And that really contrasts to other issues, you know, like increasing the minimum wage or getting people health care, where there really are a lot of conservatives who defect and have liberal positions on these issues.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: So the logic, I guess, follows that talking about highly partisan issues like immigration, for example, isn't a winning formula. In fact, most Hispanics wouldn't necessarily put immigration at the top of their list of priorities for reform. Why, then, is the Democratic Party trying so hard to push these messages?

SHOR: It's a great question. You know, I think that there's something that, you know, I've struggled with a lot in my career, and I think there's been a really big change in how Democrats talk that, you know, Democrats historically were seen as this kind of coalition party that, you know, we had this broad mix of conservative Black and Hispanic voters and white liberals, and working-class white people. And, you know, we try to find language that would make everyone happy. But I think with the rise of online donations, with the rise of social media, this has, like, really changed the incentive structure for how a Democratic politician can get ahead. And I think that that's really changed how we talk and how the party is perceived in really fundamental ways.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Well, one party's loss is another's gain. And you've concluded that former President Donald Trump, and by extension Trumpism, has been good for the Republican Party in terms of broadening and diversifying its base.

SHOR: Well, you know, I definitely don't want to say that Donald Trump is good. You know, I'm a liberal Democrat and everything. But I think there's a real point, which is that the big thing that Donald Trump did is he created these large coalitional shifts, you know, in 2016 among noncollege whites, and in 2020 among noncollege nonwhites toward the Republican Party and kind of pushed, you know, college-educated voters toward the Democratic Party. But these voters aren't distributed, you know, efficiently, geographically. You know, Donald Trump, because of these coalition shifts that his strategy, you know, ended up making happen - the bias of the Electoral College went from, you know, about a point in favor of Democrats - If Barack Obama had gotten 49.5% of the vote, he still probably would have won the Electoral College - to being four points biased against Democrats.

Joe Biden got about 52.3% of the vote. And if he had gotten 52% of the vote, he would have lost. And that's a sea change in American politics. That's the way in which I think Donald Trump has helped the Republican Party, is that the coalition shifts that his rhetoric has triggered has made it so that Republicans can win majorities with 48% of the vote consistently. And, you know, contrary to what people might say, this has never happened before in American politics. And I think that this explains, you know, a lot of why the Republican Party is acting the way they are.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: David Shor, head of data science at OpenLabs R&D, thank you very much.

SHOR: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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