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USA keeping an eye on Latino votes, electoral bloc that begins to change sides | World and Science

According to research, one in five Americans who can vote in these elections is LatinoPhoto: AFP

Published 05/02/2024 11:42 | Updated 02/05/2024 11:42

Antonio Muñoz, a former police officer turned taqueria owner, feels the political winds shifting in his home state of Nevada, where part of the traditionally Democratic Latino community is beginning to lean toward the Republican side in this presidential election year.

“I voted for Democrats in the last elections, but this year I’m in a dilemma, I don’t know what to do”, he says, in his colorful taco shop in Las Vegas, where he spoke to AFP.

Biden, 81, will seek re-election in November, most likely against former Republican President Donald Trump, 77, who he defeated in 2020 and who is in full campaign for his party’s nomination.

Despite facing dozens of accusations of electoral irregularities and other legal charges, Trump is comfortably leading the Republican primaries.

In Nevada, early polls also have him ahead of Biden. The current president won this state by a slight margin in the last elections.

Muñoz notes a Democratic stronghold still strong in Las Vegas.

“But I spoke to friends who are in the middle, like me,” says the 48-year-old man who predicts that the state will be the scene of an aggressive campaign with both parties competing for the Latino vote.

Generational change

The Latino community is one of the fastest growing in the United States.

“One in five Americans who can vote in these elections is Latino,” says Mark Hugo López, director of race and ethnicity research at the Pew Research Center.

Although with regional variations, such as the tendency in Florida to favor Republican candidates, the important Latino bloc has historically been Democratic. Many are, however, beginning to break this tradition.

In Texas, a state that borders Mexico, Trump recorded electoral gains among Latinos in 2020 compared to 2016, recalls López.

“Even in California (Democratic territory), a New York Times analysis showed a slight decline in the percentage of Latinos who supported Biden, compared to Hillary Clinton in 2016,” he said.

“It’s a very diverse landscape, but it appears that Republican candidates like Trump scored points with Latinos in places that were traditionally very Democratic in 2020,” he adds.

Although we are still at the beginning of the electoral race, polls show that this has not changed with the Democratic government.

“Joe Biden’s approval rating among Latinos remains low,” Lopez said.

Our most recent numbers show that, in January, 65% of Latinos disapproved of his work, and 32% approved,” he adds.

With the rapid expansion of the Latino community, the new generation appears to be influencing this change.

“In a place like Nevada (…) there are a lot of immigrants, but also a lot of Americans who are children of immigrant parents, as well as a growing number of people who are the third or next generation,” says López.

“And they tend to lean more toward the Republican side than other groups of Latinos,” he added.

This is what María Elena Castro, an activist with the NGO Mamás con Poder and identified with the Democrats, realizes at home, when listening to her son and nephews talk about politics.

“Younger kids don’t know much about the past, about what their parents went through,” said the 51-year-old Mexican-American.

“The vote of young Latinos is in favor of the Republicans due to the lack of information,” he assessed.

“Are we better?”

For Latinos, the economy and migration are priority issues, and they feel Biden is lacking on both. It is here, says Jesús Márquez, a political consultant linked to the Trump campaign in Nevada, that Republicans have room to act.

Thousands of people arrive at the US border every day seeking asylum, a situation that has overwhelmed the country’s already congested immigration system.

As a result, Biden is attacked from all sides, with the widespread perception that the border with Mexico is out of control.

“This is something that Latinos who have lived here for decades don’t like, because they feel like too many people are cutting in line,” Márquez said.

The issue has become a linchpin of the Republican campaign and a headache for Democrats, as has the widespread belief that the economy is in bad shape.

Concern about maintaining employment and covering basic expenses plays a crucial role among voters. According to recent polls, however, this negative assessment of the economic situation is even more intense among Latinos.

“Latinos, the working class in general, struggle with the high cost of living,” explains Márquez.

“Latinos remember how they were during Donald Trump’s administration, which was recently,” he adds.

“And the question is: are we better off now, or when Trump was president?”, he adds.

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