After each of the last few national elections, Republican strategists prognosticated that despite their low support among Latino voters, the Republican Party could begin to win them over by talking to them about kitchen-table issues like the economy and job creation. However, they also warned that if the party didn’t find new rhetoric and begin to advance solutions on immigration—a bellwether issue for many Latinos—that support would not likely grow.
Fast forward to 2016 and not only has the Republican Party been unable to spearhead a solution to update federal immigration policy, but they also haven’t found a way to talk about the issue that doesn’t continue to alienate the fastest growing voting population in America: Latinos. In addition, some candidates are seen as outright hostile to Latinos, which is driving record numbers of immigrants to naturalize and register to vote.
This can’t bode well for the 2016 Republican candidates. The last Republican to win the White House, George W. Bush, won with the Latino vote. However, the next few Republican candidates, McCain and Romney, both lost it. There is no denying that support by New American and Latino voters is critical in many states and even in states where they represent a smaller, but still critical, bloc of voters which can provide that extra push to victory.
Additional bad news for the GOP comes via new data released by Latino Decisions and Americas Voice. They conducted a poll of 2,200 registered Latino voters between April 3 and April 13, who report not only being turned off by the Republican primary candidates, but confirm that immigration is the most important issue facing their community. In addition, 74 percent of the respondents see the Republican Party as either “not caring” or as being “hostile” towards them. In addition, the greatest reason cited for why they were enthusiastic to vote was not so they could vote for any single candidate, but rather to vote “against Trump.” However, the other GOP candidates, when stacked up against the Democratic candidates, did abysmally as well.
Predictably, this season of anti-immigrant campaign rhetoric is motivating the foreign-born to naturalize at record rates, which allows them to register to vote. The New York Times reported:
“Overall, naturalization applications increased by 11 percent in the 2015 fiscal year over the year before, and jumped 14 percent during the six months ending in January, according to federal figures. The pace is picking up by the week, advocates say, and they estimate applications could approach one million in 2016, about 200,000 more than the average in recent years.”
The tremendous growth in the Latino vote, however, is not only explained by the high rate of naturalizations taking place, but also the massive number of Latino millennials turning 18 who are becoming eligible to vote. In January, Pew released a report that showed: “Hispanic millennials will account for nearly half (44%) of the record 27.3 million Hispanic eligible voters projected for 2016—a share greater than any other racial or ethnic group of voters.”
No wonder that Reince Preibus, the Republican National Committee Chairman, “called on the party to reinvent itself and officially endorse immigration reform” in 2013, after the last White House loss. Romney’s “Self Deportation” rhetoric in 2012 was a failure and he received only 27 percent of the Latino vote. However, it seems Preibus’ advice has fallen on deaf ears and the lessons of the past have still not been learned. Not only is the GOP failing to earn the Latino vote, but is motivating them to register in great numbers so they can ensure their defeat—definitely not a winning formula for taking back the White House.
Photo by Rob Lee.