By: Yoshira Macías Mejía

Editorial credit: YES Market Media /
Editorial credit: YES Market Media /

The 2020 election was a historic election for several reasons. One, this election took place during one of the hardest times in the new decade as a result of the deadly coronavirus pandemic. Two, this election witnessed record turnouts from all racial and ethnic groups including Latinos. Three, it was an election in which many voters were hoping to elect a strong leader who would tackle the current pandemic, help fix the deteriorating economy, and bring back some peace and stability to the country.
With regard to Latino voters, it is important to discuss the heterogeneity of the population. Latinos are made of several national origin groups. Some have been in the country less time than others, with some being in the Southwest since before the United States became a nation. Some speak Spanish, some are more acculturated than others, and they tend to have different cultures and ideologies. These distinctions are necessary to make because several news outlets present the view that there is such a thing as the “Latino vote.” This is not necessarily the case because of all the previously outlined distinctions among Latinos, but also because Latino subpopulations reside in different regions in the country. This results in different socialization experiences and voting patterns for Latinos. Additionally, research shows that while Latinos tend to register and vote for Democrats many are not loyal to one party and will vote based on their own interests or specific policy issues.
The 2020 election was historic due to the large number of individuals who voted. According to data from the Latino Policy and Politics Initiative at UCLA, there were an estimated 16.6 million ballots cast by Latino voters. As a result of the large number of ballots cast, there was a 30.9% increase from those cast in the 2016 election.  Data from Latino Decisions from the 2020 election, at the national level, show that 70% of Latinos voted for Biden, 27% voted for Trump, and 3% who voted for someone else. Regarding candidates for the House of Representatives, 69% of Latinos voted for a Democratic candidate, 27% voted for a Republican candidate, 2% voted for another candidate, and 2% did not vote for a candidate. With regard to the U.S. senate, 63% voted for a Democrat, 26% voted for a Republican, 5% voted for another candidate, and 3% did not vote for a candidate. These voting patterns of Latinos show that a majority leaned Democrat, but caution should be taken when trying to paint Latinos as loyal Democrats.
With regard to individual state turnout levels, there were several states where Latinos overwhelmingly voted for Biden over Trump. For instance, the key battleground state of Arizona turned blue with regard to the presidential candidates, as roughly 71% of Latinos voted for Biden and 26% voted for Trump. Arizona was not the only battleground state where more Latinos voted for Biden than for Trump. In Michigan, 76% of Latinos voted for Biden and 22% voted for Trump. In Nevada there was also large support for Biden among Latinos, with 70% voting for Biden and 25% voting for Trump.
While in some battleground states Latinos voted for Biden, there were some in which they provided substantial support for Trump. In Florida, for example, 38% of Latino voters favored Trump over Biden. While this is not particularly high, it suggests differences in political views of Latinos in Florida, where nearly half of this population is foreign born, and where Cubans (26%), Colombians (18%), and Puerto Ricans (16%) make up sizable populations. In this state, approximately 53% of Latino voters favored Biden, but 55% of Cuban voters favored Trump, signaling that anti-socialist messaging to Cubans had an influence on their vote choice. These results point to a large number of Latinos supporting Biden at the statewide level, but further analysis at the county level sheds still more insight on Latino voting patterns.
The study by the UCLA Latino Policy and Politics Initiative at UCLA titled Vote Choice of Latino Voters in the 2020 Presidential Election examines voting patterns at the county level and finds that in Florida’s Miami-Dade County, Trump received roughly 61% of the votes. This heavily Latino county was more predisposed to vote for Trump than for Biden. However, when examining patterns at the precinct level, the same study found that in several other states, such as Washington, Colorado, Wisconsin, New York, Illinois, and Texas, Latinos were more likely to vote for Biden. This is pointed out because there, as stated by the study from UCLA, there was much speculation by the media pointing to Latinos as the group that delivered Florida to Trump. In reality, however, one has to look at Latino voting patterns closely to more fully understand voter choices.
Moreover, the policy stances of Democrats help win over many Latino voters. At the national level, the top three issues were 1) the pandemic, 2) jobs/economy, and 3) healthcare costs. There were 67% of Latinos who felt that President Trump did not adequately respond to the pandemic and ignored early warnings, while 31% believed there was nothing the president could have done differently. These views on the president’s response to the pandemic, coupled with the three policy priorities, can be seen as influencing Latinos to vote for Biden.
In addition to the lack of a coronavirus response from the Trump administration, political mobilization efforts by Democrats at state and local levels helped secure a victory for them among Latino populations. In the states of Arizona and Nevada there were several Latino organizations registering Latinos to vote and asking them to mail in their ballots. These efforts by Democrats proved to be fruitful because Latinos were a key electorate that delivered two battleground states to Biden. If there is something to take away from this, it is that Latinos participate in electoral politics, but that they need to be mobilized in order for them to turn out.
What this means for future elections is that both Democrats and Republicans cannot take Latino voters for granted. There needs to be a change in how the political parties understand and relate to Latinos. This is not a monolithic group of voters that will vote Democrat. It is a diverse population that can be mobilized to increase their turnout during elections. Lastly, regarding the 2020 election, President Biden now needs to deliver on his campaign promises to Latino communities if he wants to keep their support for Democrats in future elections. Not just for his reelection, but for future elections, especially at the state and local levels during mid-term elections.