Adrian D. Pantoja
On September 8, 2020 Latino Decisions and the National Association of Latino Elected Officials Education Fund launched the 2020 nine-week tracking poll of the Latino electorate. Every week leading up to the presidential election we will survey 400 registered Latinos, gaining crucial insight on the nation’s largest group of non-white eligible voters.
Since announcing his presidential candidacy in the summer of 2015, Donald Trump has singled out immigrants, in particular those from México, as a threat to the nation. Although many were quick to dismiss Trump’s rhetoric, Latinos understood the danger of his words. From his campaign days of comparing Latino immigrants to rapists and drug dealers to his 2018 White House statement condemning asylum seekers as an “invasion,” Trump has pointed a finger at immigrants and Latinos as sources of many of the nation’s ills. Predictably, his message has unleashed a barrage of anti-Latino actions by some of his supporters. The F.B.I. reported that hate crimes against people “reached a 16-year high in 2018, with a significant upswing in violence against Latinos.” The apex of anti-Latino violence happened just over a year ago when a white supremacist killed 23 and injured more than two dozen people in El Paso, TX. The shooter echoed Trump’s rhetoric when he admitted in a manifesto that “this attack is a response to the Hispanic invasion of Texas.”
Latinos clearly want a president who will stop the attacks against them and other minorities, and their confidence rests with Joe Biden. Our respondents demonstrate an increasing trust in Biden’s ability to bring the country together, with 59% favoring Biden over Trump in week 1 of our survey and 63% in week 3. The fear and hate that Trump has instigated over the last four years has done little to inspire trust among Latinos, with a mere 16% reporting that they were confident in the President’s ability to bring the country together.
The presidential candidates have had very different responses to the rash of hate crimes against Latinos. President Trump used the El Paso massacre to remind the country that immigration is still a threat, “Republicans and Democrats must come together and get strong background checks, perhaps marrying … this legislation with desperately needed immigration reform.” Biden, on the other hand, blamed President Trump’s discourse and the white supremacy it has encouraged when he released a video on the one-year anniversary of the attack: “This anniversary is a moment to resummon the purpose we felt one year ago and to recommit to the battle for the soul of this nation – a battle against the forces of white supremacy that are part of the very foundations of our nation but this president has encouraged and emboldened.”
How are Latinos reacting to the rhetoric and violence directed at them? Addressing racism and discrimination is a top policy issue for Latinos when considering a presidential candidate. The emergence of racism and discrimination is surprising given the current context in which Latinos are experiencing severe economic distress due to Covid-19. In our survey, almost half of our respondents indicated that they have had to use savings or retirement money to pay for expenses and over a third reported that they have had trouble accessing food, medicine, or basic household needs. Yet, Latinos rank addressing racism and discrimination higher than improving wages and creating more jobs. And, it is Latinos most likely to vote and those over the age of 50 who have identified racism as a critical policy issue for the next president.
The 2020 presidential election will be a defining moment for Latinos and the country. How will the nation choose to respond to racism and discrimination? Latinos have a clear choice: select a president who is spurring acts of violence against them, or vote for a president who will protect them against racial violence. The results from the tracking poll are clear: Latino voters are eager to end the divisive rhetoric and violence directed at them, and they will use their vote to do so – ¡ya basta (enough is enough)!
Adrian D. Pantoja is associate dean of faculty and professor of politics at Pitzer College, and Senior Analyst with Latino Decisions.
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