2022 Post-Mortem: Latino Voters & the Case of the Missing Red Wave

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June 6, 2023
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A collaboration of Equis Research and Equis Institute

Equis is out today with a high-level analysis of Latino voter trends in the 2022 election. Many narratives — some more substantiated than others — contributed to a sense of uncertainty around Latino voting in the lead-up to the 2022 midterms. But what factors ended up shaping the final results, and what do they portend for 2024?

From the results of the 2020 presidential election flowed a flood of theories & thought pieces on Latino voters… including from us at Equis. (See, for starters, our 2020 post-mortem parts one and two.)

The big question underlying all the post-2020 analysis: was the Trump-era shift in Latino vote choice the start of a reconfiguration in how Hispanic voters — and other non-white voters — perceived the political parties? Or was it a temporary fluctuation, within the norm?

The 2022 midterms represented the first meaningful check point.

Our analysis relies on pre- and post-election polling, including our full 2021–2022 state time series and a new post-mortem battleground poll (fielded December 2022) — as well as focus groups, ad spending trackers, precinct data, and other public data to understand what happened in the battleground states that were the focus of attention in 2022.

An executive summary of the 2022 post-mortem report:

I. Latinos in Limbo

Would the level of Latino support reached by Trump in 2020 (about 4-in-10 Latinos nationally) persist, reverse, or increase? While neither a reverse nor a decline seemed likely, conditions were unstable, between historical precedent for first midterms, relentless crises, and a history-making summer 2022 (Dobbs, January 6th hearings, etc.). There were questions about how those circumstances might land with Latinos. Public polling of Latino voters was all over the map.

At the end of the day, there turned out to be another steep decline for Democrats among Hispanics in Florida, but basic stability in support levels among Latinos in highly-contested races (as Catalist showed in the What Happened in 2022 report.)

In short: the GOP held gains they had made since 2016/2018 but weren’t able to build on them.

II. A Formula for Stability

We point to three factors that had been reasons to anticipate possible GOP gains but ultimately became components of stability:

  • Issue Environment: The fundamentals, including rising costs & Biden job approval, looked dire for Dems. But inflation voters stayed home, Dobbs & democracy voters didn’t.
  • Candidates & Campaigns: While the GOP increased outreach to Latino voters (or made indications they would), Democrats out-campaigned them in key races.
  • Party Brands: In spite of talk about realignment, the traditional perception of the political parties among Latinos — the identity force-field — held firm, even among the swingiest voters.

III. A Recipe for Collapse

These factors are cast in relief in Florida: similar elements, combined differently, enabled another steep decline in Democratic support among Hispanics. Florida Republicans out-campaigned Dems. The fundamentals caught up with Democrats. And many Hispanic voters in the state came to adopt a different story about the parties.

IV. What it Means for 2024

A tectonic shift in the national Latino vote, along the lines of what we saw in Florida perhaps, is still theoretically possible. But there is no evidence for it in the 2022 elections. That doesn’t mean Latino voting patterns have become static — quite the opposite.

Those who didn’t vote in 2022 are the bigger wildcard this next cycle. 2024 could look different than 2020 among battleground Latinos — due to movement among Latino non-voters as they re-engage. Swing Latinos still seem to default to Dems but are open to individual Republicans. Greater fluctuations are possible when there is a major shift in the issue environment, imbalanced campaigning, or a weakening of identity bonds.

We start 2024 where we started 2022: with uncertainty and dynamism. Much can change.

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We work toward a more sophisticated understanding of the experiences, issue preferences, and political identities of Latino and Hispanic voters.

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Equis is a set of organizations working to create a better understanding of Latinos, innovate new approaches to reach and engage them, and invest in the leadership and infrastructure for long-term change and increased engagement.

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