There’s No One ‘Latino Voice’ – Religion and Geography Add to Voter Diversity

Nearly 1 in 5 people in the United States are Latino today, and “the Latino voice” has gotten a lot of news as their political voice grows stronger. But considering all 62 million Latinos as a group isn’t necessarily as helpful in understanding attitudes or voting patterns, as some scientists and journalists have pointed out.

The American Latino population is very diverse. As scholars studying immigration in the fields of sociology and religious ethics, we are particularly interested in the growing religious diversity and often overlooked geographic diversity among Latino populations.

These aspects of Latino identity are just now beginning to be more clearly recognized in media reports. Still, they’re just as informative as gender, race and other characteristics for understanding Latino voters — and will likely come into play when Americans head to the polls in November.

religious diversity

Historically, Latinos in the US were mostly Catholic, but the numbers have changed recently. In 2020, the Public Religion Research Institute reported that 50% of Latinos say they are Catholic, 14% Evangelical Protestant, 10% Non-Evangelical Protestant, and 19% religiously unaffiliated. Some researchers estimate that by 2030, half of American Latinos will identify as Protestant.

This diversity has implications for political ideology and affiliation. According to the Public Religion Research Institute’s 2020 Census of American Religion, Latino Protestants, especially evangelicals, are generally more likely to identify as politically conservative and support Republican candidates than Latino Catholics. Religiously unaffiliated Latinos, on the other hand, are generally more likely to identify as politically liberal and support Democratic candidates.

These trends are similar to those among non-Latino white Americans. The political ideology by age also looks the same: whether Latino or not, younger groups are more likely to identify as politically liberal, while older groups are more likely to identify as politically conservative.

Indeed, the voting preferences of Latino groups can be better understood by looking at religious affiliation, not ethnicity. For example, sociologist Gerardo Marti has shown that Latinos who identify as evangelical Protestants are more likely than other Latinos to embrace Christian nationalist ideas. This ideology promotes the view that the US has a special relationship with God and that it should be governed by Christian principles. Marti also shows that evangelical Latinos are more likely to align themselves with white evangelicals in promoting policies that maintain the political dominance of white Americans.

Protestant Latinos are also more likely than other Latinos to harbor anti-immigrant sentiments, which are consistent with the stance of non-Latino white evangelicals. This may seem counterintuitive, as Latinos have been subject to racist stereotypes and often have ties to immigrant communities. However, immigrant groups’ attitudes toward newcomers change over time, especially as those groups gain access to privileges associated with whiteness.

Geographical diversity

The media is starting to pay more attention to Latino diversity, especially in the wake of the 2020 presidential election, but mostly focuses on states like Florida, California and Texas. Regions where Latino communities are smaller but growing are underexposed, particularly in the Midwest — home to five of the 13 battlefield states in 2020.

Compared to the Census regions, the Latino population of the Midwest grew by 28% between 2010 and 2020: the second largest percentage of all regions, just 2 percentage points less than in the South. The Midwest also has the youngest Latino population, with a median age of 26.7 years. Because there is a significant relationship between age and political opinion, and because younger Latinos are more likely to be US citizens and thus able to vote, this could become a factor in the future.

Taken together

The intersection of religious and political beliefs among Latinos in the United States also appears to vary by geography. Considering geography and religion together highlights diversity among Latino voters.

Based on our analysis of poll data from the American Trends Panel Wave 86 at the Pew Research Center, Latino Protestants in the Midwest are more likely to identify as Democrat or Democrat than in other regions: about 74%, compared to about 63% in the Northeast. and 52% in the west and south. Meanwhile, 86% of Latino Catholics in the Northeast identify with the Democratic Party, but only 66% in the South.

Among religiously unaffiliated Latinos, meanwhile, 65% in the Midwest identify with Democrats, lower than in any other region. These differences are intriguing, but since Pew surveyed just 207 Latinos in this region, representing just 6.1% of the total sample, it’s difficult to draw statistically sound conclusions—another reason for more research in the Midwest.

The problem with understanding “the Latino voice” is that there is no such thing. Latino communities have always been diverse and growing even more.The conversation

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