One of the Newt Gingrich campaign’s top 10 reasons for why Latinos should support him for president is that “he shares our conservative values.” Republican reasoning often goes like this: While the majority of Latinos do not agree with the GOP on fiscal or immigration matters, at least their faith and social conservatism will make them Republican-friendly.
The GOP, however, shouldn’t hold its breath. The idea that Latinos are social conservatives akin to white evangelicals is simply off-base. A recent poll by impreMedia and Latino Decisions of 500 registered Latino voters late last year found that religious beliefs would not have an impact on the vote of 53% of Latinos, while 17% indicate that it will have a little impact.
Latinos are not significantly more conservative than non-Latinos. In fact, when it comes to gay marriage, a November Univision-Latino Decisions poll found Latinos are more progressive that non-Latinos. Though 43% of Latino voters supported gay marriage, only 35% of general voters did.
The trend is similar on issues like abortion. Most Latinos identify as Catholic, yet their faith does not translate into an absolute rejection of abortion rights. The same Univision-Latino Decisions poll found 38% of Latinos are pro-choice, and Latinas are only slightly less likely than non-Hispanic women to support abortion.
In the upcoming presidential election, Latinos’ top concern is jobs and the economic recovery — just like other Americans. This makes sense, especially when the unemployment rate among Latinos in January was 10.5% compared with 8.3% for the general population.
Immigration is Issue No. 2 among Latinos, yet other than Gingrich, no Republican presidential candidate supports immigration reform that provides a large-scale pathway to citizenship.
In the short term, the GOP can attract certain segments of the Latino electorate, including the more conservative Cuban-American population as well as Latinos whose families have been inAmericafor more than a generation or two.
Looking beyond this election, the Republican Party will have success with the growing Latino population with a broad and inclusive agenda, not one that puts all hope in a social conservatism that doesn’t even appeal to many Latino voters. Only then might that great migration to the GOP actually occur.
Victoria M. DeFrancesco Soto