Erik Ortiz, a 41-year-old hip-hop music producer in Florida, grew up poor in the South Bronx, and spent much of his time as a young adult trying to establish himself financially. Now he considers himself rich. And he believes shaking off the politics of his youth had something to do with it.
“Everybody was a liberal Democrat — in my neighborhood, in the Bronx, in the local government,” said Mr. Ortiz, whose family is Black and from Puerto Rico. “The welfare state was bad for our people — the state became the father in the Black and brown household and that was a bad, bad mistake.” Mr. Ortiz became a Republican, drawn to messages of individual responsibility and lower taxes. To him, generations of poor people have stayed loyal to a Democratic Party that has failed to transform their lives.
“Why would I want to be stuck in that mentality?” he said.
While Democrats won the vast majority of Hispanic voters in the 2020 presidential race, the results also showed Republicans making inroads with this demographic, the largest nonwhite voting group — and particularly among Latino men. According to exit polls, 36 percent of Latino men voted for Donald J. Trump in 2020, up from 32 percent in 2016. These voters also helped Republicans win several House seats in racially diverse districts that Democrats thought were winnable, particularly in Texas and Florida. Both parties see winning more Hispanic votes as critical in future elections.
Yet a question still lingers from the most recent one, especially for Democrats who have long believed they had a major edge: What is driving the political views of Latino men?
For decades, Democratic candidates worked with the assumption that if Latinos voted in higher numbers, the party was more likely to win. But interviews with dozens of Hispanic men from across the country who voted Republican last year showed deep frustration with such presumptions, and rejected the idea that Latino men would instinctively support liberal candidates. These men challenged the notion that they were part of a minority ethnic group or demographic reliant on Democrats; many of them grew up in areas where Hispanics are the majority and are represented in government. And they said many Democrats did not understand how much Latino men identified with being a provider — earning enough money to support their families is central to the way they view both themselves and the political world.
Like any voter, these men are also driven by their opinions on a variety of issues: Many mention their anti-abortion views, support for gun rights and strict immigration policies. They have watched their friends and relatives go to western Texas to work the oil fields, and worry that new environmental regulations will wipe out the industry there. Still, most say their favorable view of Republicans stems from economic concerns, a desire for low taxes and few regulations. They say they want to support the party they believe will allow them to work and become wealthy.
Public polling has long showed political divides within the Latino electorate — Cuban-Americans have favored Republicans far more than have Mexican-Americans, for example. During the 2020 election, precincts with large numbers of Colombian and Venezuelan immigrants swung considerably toward Mr. Trump. Surveys conducted last year by Equis Research, which studies Latino voters, showed a striking gender gap, with Latino men far more inclined than Latina women to support Republicans.
And researchers believe that Mexican-American men under the age of 50 are perhaps the demographic that should most concern Democrats, because they are more likely to drift toward conservative candidates. According to a precinct-level analysis by OpenLabs, a liberal research group, Hispanic support for Democrats dropped by as much as 9 percent in last year’s election, and far more in parts of Florida and South Texas. [Continue reading…]