During the 2020 elections, many were counting on the Latino vote to be a big booster for Joe Biden, whose democratic ideals stood for policies that are commonly assumed to be important to this group, such as a support for immigration rights, discrimination bans, and a restructuring of the justice system. Very similar policies earned Barack Obama 71% of the Latino vote in the U.S in 2012. While Latino voters overall supported Joe Biden, Donald Trump garnered more votes than expected.
One state where Trump received more Latino votes than previously anticipated was in Florida, a swing state that has historically been incredibly important in presidential elections. In the past election, Trump won 45 percent of the Latino vote, which is 11 points higher than his percentage in 2016. This shift in demographic voting may reflect the impact of Republicans’ increasing interest and investment on the Latino population, an interest which led them to develop several new strategies to win over this community’s vote in 2020.
One Republican strategy targeted Cuban and Venezuelan immigrants, who fled their nations because of extreme-left authoritarian regimes. The strategy unfairly painted Biden as an extreme leftist, or even a “Castro-Chavista”.
These target ads were in Spanish, which seemed to be very effective in reaching this demographic. The ads not only overcame language barriers, but because current technology that takes down misinformation from popular social media apps is not yet extensively developed in other languages, the Spanish ads with false information were more difficult to take down.
Fernand Amandi, a Democratic pollster and strategist in Florida, claims that the Biden campaign only decided to start focusing on the Latin American population in the weeks leading up to the election. This could have been triggered by polls made in September, which showed that Biden was underperforming amongst this key demographic. These last-minute efforts were not enough to fix the damage that the long lasting Republican misinformation campaign had done to the Democratic Party’s image among the Hispanic population.
With this in mind, a first key step Democratic officials should be taking, is reaching out to Latinos long before election cycles start. In order to do this, it is crucial that efforts are made to better understand this multifaceted, culturally and socially diverse community. Edgar Flores, a Democratic assemblyman in Nevada, claims that the political science community simply does not understand Latin Americans yet, stating that “So often, political strategists have been like, ‘We don’t get the Latino community. It’s a mystery.’”
In trying to develop a strategy, it might be useful to look at the success in Arizona, where Biden overwhelmingly won the Latino vote 71% to Trump’s 26%. Local experts attribute this decisive victory to small, grassroots movements and nonprofit organizations that have consistently worked to raise the voices of and mobilize the Latino community. Young volunteers, whose interest in politics was sparked by the fight against SB 1070 (an anti-immigration law), led the efforts within the Latino community. Unfortunately, these efforts were not supported by the Democratic Party. Going forward, Democratic Party officials should not only consider investing in helping these organizations in Arizona, but also replicating these efforts across the country, as part of a strategy to regain the increasing amount of Latino voters that Democrats lost in 2020.
Shadia Muñoz-Najar is a rising Junior at Stetson Univeristy, Deland Florida, double majoring in Political Science and Economics, with a special interest in Latin America and the Latino population living in the United States. She did an internship in the Summer of 2021, with Swing Blue Alliance, focused on outreach to Spanish-speaking voters.