Democratic Groups Release Research Findings and Strategic Guidance on Engaging Latino Voters

July 31, 2018


TO:                 Interested Parties
FROM:           Matt Barreto, Co-founder, Latino Decisions
DATE:             July 31, 2018
RE:                 Latino Research Memo

On behalf of CHC Bold PAC, Priorities USA and House Majority PAC, Latino Decisions implemented a series of 7 focus groups and a national survey (N=1,000) with Latino registered voters across the country to learn more about voter engagement and potential mobilizing issues heading in the November 2018 midterm elections. The groups and poll unearthed some significant challenges for Democrats, but also an immense opportunity thanks in large part to the toxic nature of the Trump presidency and agenda under this president and Republican-controlled Congress – particularly both on immigration and on economic issues like health care and taxes. This memo summarizes each portion of the research and how Democrats can leverage the important findings that emerged to maximize Latino voter participation in 2018.

Overarching themes:

Latinos are exceedingly angry at the state of politics today. Nearly every focus group participant we talked with said they were disgusted, angry and frustrated with politics today. In our poll 87 percent said the issue of child separations at the border made them angry and 87 percent said that they were angry at the Republican health care plan that would have left millions of Americans without coverage and increased premiums for others — even allowing insurance companies to charge people over the age of 50 premiums that are five times higher than those of younger people.

Democrats have an opportunity to consolidate and make huge gains in Latino voter performance – but it should not be taken as a given, as Latinos want to know exactly what change their votes create. While Democrats lead the generic ballot 67 to 22 with Latinos in our sample (and 72-18 in battleground districts), only 44 percent are currently “certain” to vote Democrat and only 53 percent overall said they are certain they will cast a ballot in November.

  • When asked what the top priorities were motivating them to vote, the top answer given was to fight back against racism against immigrants and Latinos in general with 36% calling that their most important reason to vote. Next was fixing our broken immigration system with 34%, followed by investing in education at 27% and the cost of health care at 23%.
  • Separately, when asked about the most important reason for voting in 2018, 37% selected “to stand up for the Latino community and show politicians we matter,” followed by 27% who chose “to block Donald Trump and the Republican agenda” and another 21% who selected “to elect Democrats to Congress who represent my issues.” Democrats communicating to the Latino community must prove to these voters that they will fight for their community and their priorities.

Anger over immigration policy and rollbacks in health care are top mobilizing issues. We can not emphasize enough the degree of anger, disappointment and pain in the Latino community over immigration issues since January 2017. 89 percent oppose the child separation issues (93 percent in battleground districts), 85 percent disagree with the decision to end DACA and 87 percent are angry that President Trump called undocumented immigrants “animals.” Trump’s approval remains low at just 22% nationally and lower at 17% in battleground districts.

  • When comparing anger and frustration across a variety of policy issues and statements, the single highest negative response came from Trump’s statement calling undocumented immigrants “animals” with 77% saying it made them “very angry.” The next most aggravating policy was child separations with 74% “very angry.”
  • Relatedly, on the GOP tax bill, only 11% think it will put more money in their pocket, with a majority stating it will either not affect them or will make their financial situation worse.

Cuts to health care are deeply upsetting in the Latino community. Latinos have the highest rates of lacking insurance and had the largest gains in access under Obamacare. 84 percent think the government should do more to increase health care access, including Medicare and Medicaid.

  • The third most anger-eliciting policy issue was related to the GOP ’s proposed cuts to health care (AHCA) with 71% saying it made them very angry – only child separations and the dehumanization of immigrants made Latinos more upset than GOP efforts to cut health care access.

Do not assume that the average Latino voter is watching the 24-hour news cycle – they are not. They are mostly consumed with work, family and community affairs and the happenings in DC are only vaguely familiar – with the exception of notable Trumpisms. We have to do considerable voter education and outreach to produce turnout increases this midterm election.

Strategic Recommendations:

  • Target Latinos in English and Spanish with clear takeaways on what specifically will change by voting in 2018
  • In English, the outreach needs to appear sincere and about the Latino community. A generic ad or mailer that appears targeted to suburban whites will not resonate
  • Capitalize on the high levels of anger and frustration by promising policy solutions to the immigration mess that Trump has created. Don’t talk in generalities or buzzwords, take a clear stand that voters can rally behind
  • Spanish TV and radio remain highly influential sources
  • For younger Latinos, social media and digital are critical – but it needs to be Latino focused, so it gets their attention
  • Messages that can mobilize: fighting to protect access to health care; standing up against attacks on Latinos, promoting welcoming/inclusive policy for immigrants

Focus groups:

Top 6 takeaways

1. There is large potential for increased engagement with Latinos, but the groups made clear that they are frustrated with government and feel the political system is not working well for them.

2. Bread and butter issues were salient among focus group participants because many Latino families are just barely getting by due to the economic recovery not being fully felt among the population. The key issues within economic factors are affordable housing and education, better wages and access to and affordability of health care. It is important to note, however, that Latinos in Texas were much more positive in their views of the economy in their state.

3. Despite concerns with these bread and butter issues, immigration remains a very salient issue that is symbolic to Latinos of their overall relationship with the political system. Nearly all focus group participants referenced that they have people in their personal network who are being directly or indirectly impacted by immigration policy. There is overwhelming frustration, even anger, over the state of immigration issues today and this could be a mobilizing issue.

a. At the same time, they seem disillusioned with previous promises of immigration reform, leading them to have less and less faith in seeing an imminent solution.

4. After cuing respondents to think about their views of the parties, most participants are interested in voting for Democrats, but they need to be convinced that the Democrats will definitely stand up for them. Latinos in Texas, however, will be a more difficult target due to their socially conservative ideology and more positive views regarding Republicans’ handling of economic issues.

5. In Miami, there is still work to be done on persuading longer-time Republican leaners to change their behavior and begin voting for Democrats. Although they are very frustrated with Trump, they don’t really consider themselves Democrats – yet – though there was a sense that they would be willing to shift if their personal situation gets worse.

6. The participants demonstrated political sophistication and they could connect all the dots, but they were not always highly engaged and politically knowledgeable on day-to-day current affairs. We should not assume they are news junkies despite their self-reported news consumption levels – they are not.

Getting Out the Vote

  • Participants understand the importance of voting, but candidates and parties do not communicate a clear agenda to Latinos. Many noted that they have voted in the past and that nothing has changed.
  • We need to outline clear implications connecting our votes to outcomes that benefit people’s daily lives. Some questioned: “what would actually change if I voted?”
  • Participants expressed a general lack of trust of politicians who make a lot of promises but do not follow through. Nobody sees them working in the Latino community

Views Towards the GOP

  • The GOP is the party of the wealthy and big business and does not care much about the public or the average American
  • GOP is the same as Trump: anti-immigrant, hates Mexicans, wants to deport all undocumented immigrants
  • Participants in a Spanish-speaking group expressed resentment and disappointment over the Obama-era inability to fix immigration – but on most issues Republicans were seen as the problem, particularly on the issue of immigration today. Current immigration policies, the cancellation of DACA and family separations were seen as “racist” actions