The Emerging Latino Divide
Tear up the textbooks, a new pattern may be emerging among Latino voters. The conventional wisdom — that Hispanics habitually vote Democrat over the immigration issue — may be obsolete.
Gallup found that support for President Obama’s amnesty order was primarily among the foreign born population — whether Latino or not. Hispanics born in the United States only backed the amnesty plan by 51-42. Latinos born outside the U.S. backed it by 75-17.
(Non-Hispanics born outside the U.S. backed Obama’s plan by 60-32). Since only one-quarter of Hispanic voters are foreign born, this finding is electrifying! It means that the knee-jerk approval Democrats are expecting from the Latino community may not be forthcoming, particularly not in sufficient numbers to offset the backlash among non-Hispanic voters.
But the longer term political and social implications of this fissure in the Latino community, based on place of birth, are even more important. Political science experts have long wondered if the rapidly growing Latino population would auger in a permanent Democratic majority. When black and Latino voters reach one-third of the electorate combined (they are now one-quarter), will that cause Republican extinction?
Certainly, if Hispanic voters follow African-American voting patters it would spell bad — and possibly fatal — news for the GOP. But the Gallup data suggest that Latinos are assimilating politically into the larger population and, unlike blacks, abandoning race consciousness in their voting patterns. Like German-Americans, Italian-Americans and Irish-Americans, they are mirroring national public opinion in their thinking rather than sticking with their ethnic orientation.
This birthplace gap in the Latino vote may help explain the 13 point gain by Republicans among Latino voters in the 2014 elections. While Democrats still won Hispanics 2:1, they did not win by the 3:1 margin Obama tallied in 2012.
For decades, politicians spoke of the gender gap in voting patterns before they realized that pro-Democratic voting patterns were largely concentrated among unmarried women. It was more of a marriage gap than a gender gap.
So, with outspoken Latino advocacy groups urging immigration amnesty at the top of their lungs, the compliant and complacent media have assumed that they speak for all Latinos. But they don’t. While foreign-born Hispanics account for half of the U.S. Latino population, they are only one-quarter of the citizens and, perhaps, an even smaller share of the electorate.
So Republicans should not fear increases in the Latino population as much as they do. The second generation, the children of our new neighbors, show the classical signs of healthy assimilation.