85% of Latino voters age 18 to 34 are driven to vote by race and ethnic inequality issues, a study conducted by Telemundo and BuzzFeed News shows.
This year’s presidential election will not only be the first time Latinos are the largest community of color eligible to vote, with a calculated 32 million citizens; it will also be the first election for many young Latinos who are qualified to hit the polls come November 3.
The demographic wave of Latinos in the 18 to 34 age range will add more than 1.2 million voters to the electoral registers, while non-Latino voters in that same range decreased by 2.47 million. These new Latino voters are part of a growing trend, and analysts project that during the next decade, 1 million new Latinos will reach voting age each year, sustainedly increasing their weight in the electorate towards 2030.
Their voice may be decisive this year, a new report by Telemundo and Buzzfeed News suggests. Young Latinos make up one-third or more of the 18- to 34-year-old population in six states, including the key swing states of Florida and Arizona.
In other words, their potential to impact the result of the 2020 election is significant. But what can drive them to the polls, and how will they vote?
According to an earlier version of the study released in August, 60% of the 638 young Latinos polled by Telemundo and BuzzFeed in June said they would vote for Joe Biden, versus 19% who would vote to re-elect Donald Trump.
Now, an expanded version of the study, released today, helps us understand why—especially when you consider that this young generation of voters doesn’t necessarily follow traditional party lines: a significant 37% describe themselves as “independent” or “undecided,” 50% as Democrats, and 13% as Republicans. (For reference, a Pew study of the overall Latino electorate showed about 62% leaning Democrat and 34% identifying with or leaning towards the Republican Party.)
This year’s two most important news stories, the COVID-19 pandemic and the Black Lives Matter movement, are among the main factors driving them to the polls: 82% said the protests for racial equality were a motivation to cast a vote, while 71% mentioned the health and economic crisis caused by the coronavirus as a driver.
But social issues cut deeper than the Black Lives Matter among these young voters: race and ethnic inequality is the number one political issue for young Latinos, with 85% mentioning racial and systemic barriers as motivation to vote. And the reasons are personal: almost three-quarters of those polled reported that they, a family member or a friend had been the target of racist actions over the last two years, with 63% mentioning they had been called offensive names. And even while 90% of these young Latino voters are US-born, 45% of them reported having been told to go back to their country.
The large share of US-born citizens in this group explains in part why the traditional issue of immigration doesn’t rank higher among their motivations to vote: only 30% of those polled mentioned it as a factor in their decision to go to the polls, a rather low number for Latinos, but still more than three times higher than among non-Latinos polled for the study. This lower importance given to immigration also represents a shift from previous Latino generations: past studies had placed it as the most important issue for Latino voters.
The generational gap runs deep: 65% of young Latino voters feel more informed than their parents, while half of them said they were also more vocal about political issues than the previous generation, and a similar number reported that they were more likely to vote.