As the next generation of the Latino population becomes eligible to vote, they mark a dynamic and largely untapped voting bloc. There is a misperception that Hispanics are mostly non-voting immigrants; the reality is that a significant number of their children are U.S. citizens and the fastest growing population of first-time voters. With the increased weight of swing states in the mid-term elections and the high Latino population, the GenZ Latino vote in states like Florida, North Carolina, Colorado, and Georgia may quickly become the deciding factor in these key battleground states.
Lessons learned from 2020 were evident with the Voto Latino voter registration drive which engaged 11,000 first-time voters in the Georgia election where Biden won by approximately 12,000 votes, as reported by Voto Latino. Echoes of this same trend were seen in Wisconsin, Arizona, and Pennsylvania which continue to be up for grabs by either party in the mid-term elections.
The majority of Latino GenZers are growing up with hard-working parents in the service industry, who have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic, economic crisis, and social inequities. In many ways, this segment of the population serves as the new sandwich generation, acting as caregivers in support of parents and Abuelas. They take on jobs at a young age to contribute to the family’s quality of life. They go to medical appointments and facilitate social services as bilingual and educated family liaisons and interpreters.
Latino GenZers live the challenges of social injustice along with their working-class loved ones. Nevertheless, they manage to educate themselves as English-dominant American citizens who manifest their concerns over climate change, reproductive rights, and a plethora of social injustice issues. TikTok, Instagram, and other digital platforms, as well as other news sources, keep these key issues top of mind for this new generation of voters.
NPR reports the increasing awareness that Latinos are a voting demographic to watch. It’s something both parties must deal with. Republican strategists have told NPR that they have appealed to the group with a three-pronged approach — the economy, crime, and progressive policies — which began during the 2020 election when Trump used “democratic-socialism” to scare Latinos, particularly those of Cuban and Venezuelan descent. Democratic strategists have also realized that immigration can be an important “threshold issue,” but the concerns of Latinos go well beyond that, particularly to issues such as the economy, healthcare, and education—especially since this is a group that has a high working-class population hopeful for social mobility.
Historically, Latino youth as first-time voters have been pursued by Democrats and voted based on liberal social justice platform issues. The current surge of Latino eligible voters has now caught the attention of Republicans. In the past, the Latino vote leaned heavily towards liberal values, but this preference is starting to change, offering both parties an opportunity to engage this dynamic and diverse voting bloc. Latino GenZers will undoubtedly influence their parents and grandparents as they share social media news and drive them to the voting booth. Yet, both Democrat and Republican campaigns seem to be failing or certainly falling short of filling the gap in outreach to Latinos, specifically GenZ first-time voters.
As with the rest of GenZers, young Latinos are heavily immersed in social media culture. Integrating voter registration initiatives through targeted, in-culture campaigns is a strategy that both parties need to amplify if they are to succeed in tapping this growing voter bloc. Agricultural workers in Texas and California will reflect different priorities than their counterparts in Florida who typically represent a more conservative generational block.
Hispanics are not a monolithic group, and effective campaign outreach requires culturally intelligent sensitivities and authentic messaging to capture this voting bloc. GenZers have grown savvy at digital fact checking and busting misinformation. In-culture messaging, sensitive to regional areas of the country and the 20-plus diverse countries of origin of their families, is critical to effectively engage and turn out the vote. Voters must feel validated and empowered to change the status quo that keeps them from actualizing the American Dream.
For more information on the Latino impact on the elections visit:
Voto Latino (Title quote as reported by Voto Latino)