Hispanic Voters: Rethinking the Faith & Family Paradigm

Republicans have become fond of saying in various forms: Hispanic voters should be with us because of our shared social values, or, we are the party of faith and family which are important to Hispanic voters.

In our Hispanic voter focus groups, the value of family was center stage.  It was one of the defining variables that differentiate Anglo values from Hispanic values.  They talk about how Hispanic culture is more “family oriented and close knit,” the feeling that “they actually want to keep their kids around after they are 18,” a sense that there is “greater parental involvement and respect in the Hispanic culture.”  Family is the central focus of life – “you rally around your family members, your cousin is your brother.”  Blood is very, very thick.

But, our focus group participants are perplexed when we ask if they feel Republicans are more likely to share their values of faith and family.  They are perplexed because they do not see either party as having cornered the market on faith or family.

The most recent NBC/Wall Street Journal survey conducted by Bill McInturff of Public Opinion Strategies and Fred Yang of Hart Research with its national oversample of Hispanic voters help shed some additional light on this values conundrum.  A most interesting sequence asks voters how closely they feel aligned to the Republican and Democratic parties on “their approach to social and cultural issues.”  By a rather staggering margin, Hispanic voters are much more likely to say they agree more with Democrats:

Using a scale from 1 to 5 where 5 means that you totally agree and 1 means that you totally
disagree, please tell me how closely you agree with the Republican Party/Democratic Party.

table 1

And then we seek solace in the crosstabs only to find that just one-quarter of the more socially conservative Hispanics (those who consider themselves Right-to-Life) agree with Republicans on social and cultural issues while more agree with Democrats.

table 2

How can this be?

From the same NBC/Wall Street Journal survey we find that a majority of Hispanics (56{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222}) prefer to define marriage as between one man and one woman compared to the 36{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} who prefer a definition that includes same sex marriages.

And, on abortion, 42{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} of Hispanic voters believe it should be illegal with exceptions and 21{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} believe it should be illegal without any exceptions.  That’s nearly two-thirds of Hispanic voters who are more aligned with a more pro-life point of view.

Both, of course, would lead one to the reasonable conclusion that Hispanics should be more aligned with the traditional platform of the Republican Party.

But wait.  Maybe “social and cultural values” means something other than abortion and gay marriage to Hispanic voters.

The survey asks … when you hear the phrase social and cultural issues, what does it mean to you?  The answers among Hispanics are as revealing as they are different from their Anglo voter counterparts, as well as from Republicans.  We use a “word cloud” demonstration to make the point – the size of the font corresponds to the frequency of mentions.

What “Social and Cultural Issues” Mean Among Anglos:

social cultural anglos

What “Social and Cultural Issues” Mean Among Republicans:

social cultural republican

What “Social and Cultural Issues” Mean Among Hispanics:

social cultural hispanics

Hispanic voters and the Republican Party are just not on the same page when talking about “social issues.”  Republicans could very well just be missing the point and talking straight past Hispanic voters.   It’s no wonder Hispanic voters are perplexed when Republicans insist we share the same values.

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Public Opinion Strategies