This week, Equis, an organization dedicated to, among other things, "creat[ing] a better understanding of Latinos" and "innovat[ing] new approaches to reach and engage them," released an exhaustive, 131-page deck that explores Latino voter trends in 2022 and what those trends "portend for 2024."

While Equis is a progressive organization, I find them and their co-founder, Carlos Odio, to be clear-eyed and transparent. They have a point of view, but aren't trying to sugar-coat or twist the data into a narrative that suits their agenda. This analysis is nuanced and detailed. And it paints a worrisome picture for Democrats who may be hoping that increased Latino turnout in 2024 will cement their gains in key battleground states. 

Like many of us who cover politics, Equis wanted to answer the question of whether the "Trump-era shift" toward Republicans in 2020 in key battleground states was just a one-off fluctuation, or if it was "the start of a reconfiguration in how Hispanic voters (and other non-white voters) perceived the political parties?"

To do this, Equis relied primarily on two key sources of information. The first is a 2,000 respondent post-mortem survey of registered Hispanic voters in 12 battleground states: Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas and Wisconsin. The second is the 2021-2022 Equis State Series, featuring 37 multi-modal polls, plus focus groups, in 10 states. Conducted in partnership with GBAO, TargetSmart, Searchlight, EMC Research and Castillo & Associates, it includes 22,000 total interviews. Respondents in some states were matched to the voter file after the election for validated vote history.

As some other analyses of the 2022 Latino vote has concluded: Democrats didn't do any worse with Latino voters than they did in 2020, but they didn't do better either. The one very big asterisk here is Florida, where Democrats did much worse with Latino voters than Biden did in 2020. 

As to why Democrats held their ground in those other 11 battleground states, Equis provides three main reasons:

1. Republicans didn't turn their advantage on the economy into electoral success.
Even as Republicans enjoyed a five-point advantage (48% to 43%) among battleground state Latinos on the issue of which party they trusted more to deal with inflation and the rising cost of living, Republican candidates underperformed with those voters. Equis' post-election polling and voter file matches found that Republicans won just 82% of those who said Republicans would do a better job on inflation and the cost of living, while Democratic candidates won 93% of those who thought Democrats would do a better job. Moreover, Democrats won 67% of the vote among the 10% who said they thought both or neither party would do a good job tackling these economic issues. Digging deeper into those voters, Odio told me, Latinos who trusted Republicans more on inflation but didn't vote for them were concerned that Democrats "don't always deliver on their promises, but they still trusted Democrats to look out for them and thought Republicans were extreme."

2. Democrats won swing Latino voters by a significant margin.
Democratic candidates did well among those voters that Equis dubbed "most conflicted." These voters trust Democrats on some issues, but Republicans on others (in other words, they're swing voters). According to Equis' 2022 validated voters survey in those 11 states, Democrats won these voters 68% to 24%. However, they also had the lowest participation rate. Why did Democrats do as well with this group? Their top issues, according to Equis, were "Republicans prioritizing the rich and being extreme on abortion." Lest you assume these are just knee-jerk progressives, these "highly conflicted" voters "were less likely to agree with characterizations of the GOP as "hostile to minorities" or a "threat" to democracy.

3. Abortion mattered, a lot.
Latinos who chose abortion as their top issue, wrote Equis, while a smaller group, voted in dominant fashion for Democrats, and they turned out beyond predicted rates. 

However, Equis paints a sobering picture for Democrats about 2024. In particular, they warn that drop-off voters (especially those who voted in 2020 but not 2018 or 2022), are much more open to supporting Republicans in 2024. "There are some indications, at this early stage of the cycle," writes Equis, "that the GOP or Trump would do better with Latino voters in 2024 than they did in 2020."

In a survey of battleground state Latino voters, Equis found that among those who voted only in 2020, 54% would vote for a "generic Republican," compared to 34% who'd support Biden. Among those who are merely midterm drop-off voters (they voted in 2018 and 2020 but not 2022), Biden fared better against the "generic Republican" 52% to 45%. However, presidential-year-only voters make up a bigger share of the overall Latino electorate (49%) than those who skipped 2022 but voted in 2018 and 2020 (41%). 

Of course, Republicans will not be nominating a "generic" Republican in 2024. Even so, if that person happens to be Donald Trump, the Equis poll shows the former president performing significantly better with Latinos in these swing states than he did in 2020.

According to Equis, Biden beat Trump in these battleground states in 2020 by 15 points (54% to 39%). Two years later, Democratic candidates won Latino voters in these states by 13 points (53% to 40%). Yet, the Equis December post-mortem poll found Biden's lead over Trump among these Latino voters at just eight points (51% to 43%). 

Given how close states like Arizona and Nevada were in 2020, a seven-point shift in vote share among Latinos to Trump in 2024 would likely be enough to flip both states into the red column. 

So, can each party hope to win over these voters next year?

1. Don’t assume Republicans are now the multi-cultural working-class party.

The good news for Republicans: drop-off Latino voters, especially those who only voted in the presidential election, give Republicans a 13-point advantage on the issue of dealing with inflation and cost of living issues. 

However, trusting Republicans on an economic concern isn't the same as believing that Republicans are the party of the working class. For example, among Latinos who voted in 2022, the Equis voter-validated survey found 57% agreed and 39% disagreed with the statement that the Republican Party prioritizes the rich over working people. Among those who didn't vote in 2022, that gap is even wider, with 60% agreeing and just 35% disagreeing. 

Or as Carlos Odio told me: "It's all about the economy, and about understanding that the economy is never entirely about the economy. Who gets where me and my family are coming from and what we're looking for? It's cultural. The big Democratic advantages have traditionally been around fighting on the side of opportunity, whether that's education or lowering the burden of healthcare costs."

2. Democrats need to treat drop-off Latino voters like persuasion targets, not GOTV targets.

For years, the working assumption among many campaign professionals was that Latino voters stayed home in midterm elections, but showed up in presidential elections. As such, a district or county with a significant Latino population would perform much better for Democrats in a presidential year than a midterm.

That assumption, however, is dangerous for Democrats when, as the Equis data points out, "Republicans show some pockets of strength among non-voters." 

Republican candidates can make significant inroads with these voters, especially if they put a full-court persuasion press on them while Democrats only engage these voters at the very end of the campaign. 

Republicans didn't do that full-court press in 2022, according to Equis data. In the highly-contested states, "only conservative Latinos perceived an increase in effort from Republicans, while Latinos of all ideologies (including the conservatives) reported an increase from Democrats." 

In Nevada, for example, Equis credits Republicans' spending on Spanish language communication for Republican Senate candidate Adam Laxalt's solid name recognition among targeted Latino voters. However, they argue that "Democratic spending, which came in even heavier, seemed to preserve [Democratic Sen. Catherine] Cortez Masto's standing, and her communications appeared to harm his image more than his messaging hurt her." For example, Democrats and the Cortez Masto campaign were on Spanish language TV starting in March 2022, while Laxalt and his allies didn't start spending there until the late summer. By then, Laxalt's image among Latino voters was already underwater by 11 points. Even a September and October surge in spending by Republicans was too late to turn perceptions of Laxalt around. In October, his favorable ratings were still underwater by 13 points While down twelve points from their peak in the summer, Cortez Masto's were still net-positive by 37 points. 

Ultimately, the most important takeaway from this study comes from its concluding paragraph:

A tectonic shift in the national Latino vote, along the lines of what we saw in Florida perhaps, is still theoretically possible. But there is no evidence for it in the 2022 elections. That doesn't mean Latino voting patterns have become static. Quite the opposite: Latinos, like Black and AAPI voters, are at a highly dynamic point. They remain one of the great wildcards in US elections and in the study of them, ready to subvert any overconfident expectations. [Emphasis added]

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