Thursday, November 15, 2012

Vast ideological differences between Hispanics and GOP

The GOP is in much, much deeper trouble with Hispanics than Republicans are currently willing to admit.

How many times have we heard this Republican talking point?

Hispanics are a natural GOP constituency because they're Catholic, socially conservative, believe in getting ahead, small-business minded etc.,

We've been hearing Republicans say that for years, and we continue to hear it. Rob Portman was at a post-election Wall Street Journal Q & A where he was asked how the party can do better with minorities.

His answer?

Change the tone and messaging.

To hear Republicans tell it, there's just a huge misunderstanding between Hispanics and the GOP. If Hispanics truly knew what Republicans were about, they'd vote GOP down the line.

If that's the way Republican leaders genuinely see it, they'll continue to flail with Hispanic voters.

The reason Hispanics vote, in massive margins, for Democrats is because Hispanics tend to be ideologically liberal.

Not because of a Republican failure to communicate, and not because there's some sci-fi "invasion of the GOP vote snatchers" thing going on.

Democrats have won the Hispanic vote in presidential elections since 1980 by an average of 32.9% over Republicans. That's just massive ownage.

You don't spend three decades accidentally voting for the party you disagree with by 33%.

In fact, Ronald Reagan only managed 35% and 37% of the Hispanic vote in 1980 and 1984. The reason it didn't seem like a big deal is because Hispanics only made up 2% of the electorate in '80, but if Reagan's tone, messaging, and supercharged economy could only cut the Hispanic gap to 24%, you know it's a pretty Democratic demographic.

But Republicans -- even now -- seem unwilling to acknowledge that the heart of their woes with Hispanics isn't emotional, it's ideological (even though the emotional aspect is real, as well).

That makes it much tougher going for the GOP, because even if they start understanding the emotional component of immigration etc., they'll still be missing the more profound component -- ideology.

Hispanic affinity toward the Democratic party is ideologically profound and deep.

One of the most popular GOP misconceptions is that Catholic Hispanics believe exactly what the Catholic Church teaches on everything, so they must be against same-sex marriage and abortion, and if they're against those two things, well that means they must be Republican.

That's flawed on so many levels.

It assumes that a huge number of Hispanics are one-issue voters and will vote based solely on same sex marriage and abortion. We know, of course, that one-issue voters are rare.

We also know that just because you're Catholic doesn't mean you believe in all the church's teachings. We know loads of white Catholics who pick-and-choose doctrinally, so why do we assume Hispanic Catholics don't take a cafeteria approach, either?

Third and even more tellingly, we also know that Hispanics favor same-sex marriage, despite heavy Catholic identification.

52% of Hispanics support same-sex marriage while only 34% oppose it. In fact, support for same sex marriage is stronger in the Hispanic community than the public, at-large where 48% support it and 44% oppose it.

Thus, on same-sex marriage, Hispanics are more liberal than the public, at large, and certainly more so than the church.

Now it's true that more Hispanics think abortion should generally be illegal than legal -- you can grant the GOP that.

But that's just one of many social issues, and on the rest -- same-sex marriage, health care, immigration -- Hispanics are liberal.

It shouldn't be a surprise, then, that if you believe in more liberal things, you'll identify with and vote for the party that's more liberal.

Want to know how bullish Hispanics are on Democrats?

64% of Latinos have a somewhat or very favorable view of Democrats in Congress. That's unbelievably high in a nation that pretty much hates Congress. Meanwhile, only 23% of Latinos have a very or somewhat favorable view of Republicans in Congress.

In other words, this isn't a reflection of Latinos' love for Congress; it's a reflection of their love for the Democratic party and dislike of the Republican party.

So how else do we know that Hispanics lean liberal (besides, voting Democratic for decades)?

Quick list:

On women's issues, Latinos preferred Obama to Romney, 73%-16%.

75% of Latinos say they'd rather raise taxes to keep Medicare as it is than make reforms.

Only 38% support school vouchers.

In another Latino Decisions poll, 55% said they supported the Occupy Wall Street Movement, while 22% said they opposed it -- a huge gap.

On health care, 59% said it was the role of government to ensure everyone has access to healthcare, while 26% said the responsibility lies with the individual.

On the question of whether government should lower taxes to make economy grow or "invest resources in federal projects to stimulate the economy", 55% chose the latter and only 29% chose lowering taxes.

Only 20% somewhat or strongly support private Social Security investment accounts; 67% somewhat or strongly oppose them.

Meanwhile, an NBC poll over summer showed that 40% of Latinos said they had a "great deal" or "quite a bit" of confidence in the federal government. In fact, their confidence and trust in the federal government as an institution exceeded their confidence and trust in religious leaders and organizations, the financial industry, or corporations. 

So.... do I think Republicans should just throw in the towel on the Hispanic vote?

No, but they need to be realistic about two things.

1. Stop tricking themselves into thinking Hispanics are closet Republicans, but that there's just been a massive failure to communicate.

Most Hispanics are liberal, and they know why they are.

2. It's not about tone or messaging.

Barack Obama had unbelievable tone and messaging in 2008, but did pro-life conservatives who overwhelmingly believe in less government vote for him? No. Because they didn't agree with him.

That's why it's unreasonable to expect that a new messenger or tone will necessarily help Republicans with Hispanics. Again, if it's about ideology, that shouldn't matter too much, and we just saw --- on issue after issue --- that it's about ideology.

Can Republicans win the Hispanic vote? Almost certainly not. Can they make it more competitive? Sure -- though only to a point.

But the only way Republicans can start performing a bit better with Hispanics is by acknowledging who they are as a demographic and by not painting them as closet Republicans.

You can't engage your audience until you know your audience, and the GOP seems unwilling to acknowledge that Hispanic preference for Democrats is about ideology; not about GOP miscommunication.