The move of Hispanics toward the GOP is much in the news. The victory earlier this year of Republican Mayra Flores in a special election in a longtime Democratic House district in South Texas made a front-page story of the trend that, until then, had been mainly on the radar of political mavens.
But up to now there has been no book-length examination of Hispanics’ rightward shift, certainly not one geared toward the engaged layman.
Now there is.
Political Migrants: Hispanic Voters on the Move, by Jim Robb, looks at why Hispanic Americans don’t seem to be playing their part in The Emerging Democratic Majority that John Judis and Ruy Teixeira foretold two decades ago.
Robb is a vice president at the immigration-reduction group NumbersUSA, but this isn’t really an immigration book. There’s a good deal of background on Hispanic Americans—their history and characteristics—and it doesn’t sugarcoat the difficulties some have had over the years. There’s an especially useful chapter on why the experience of Hispanics is not comparable to that of blacks.
But the core of the book is probably the most detailed survey of Hispanic opinion ever conducted. There may be only 100 or so Hispanics in any given national poll, making it impossible to get meaningful results for various subgroups. So what Robb did was commission a survey with more than 2,700 Hispanic likely voters, conducted in April and May of this year, allowing all kinds of demographic slicing and dicing.
The large sample size means the responses to the 13 questions can be broken down by categories you’d expect: sex, age, party affiliation, ideology, education, and income. But in addition, results are reported according to whether the respondent is an immigrant, marital and parental status, religious affiliation and frequency of attendance, and language spoken at home. And to me the most interesting demographic question is whether the respondent’s “Hispanic Identity” is primary or secondary—basically, whether he sees his Hispanic-ness as a racial matter, like being black (primary), or as an ethnic identity (secondary), like being Italian.
Robb then walks through the 13 substantive poll questions, with a brief discussion of each—Biden approval, how they voted in 2020, who they would vote for in 2024 if it’s a re-run of 2020, top issues, size of government, abortion, and several others. To read this book is not heavy-lifting—Robb writes simply and without affectation, so it is accessible to all interested readers.
As you might expect, Republicans do better among Hispanics who are over 40, Protestants, those who attend church frequently regardless of denomination, are married, have children, speak English at home, and those who see themselves as ethnically, rather than racially, Hispanic. But the level of detail also reveals some surprising wrinkles—like the fact that foreign-born Hispanic voters have a strong preference for the Republicans on immigration, the opposite of native-born Hispanics.
The most interesting chapter may be the final one, where Robb draws on these results, along with ongoing polling (specifically on immigration) that NumbersUSA has been doing for several years, to offer advice for both parties on how to appeal to Hispanic voters. He summarizes his advice for the GOP this way:
Emphasize border security and moderate immigration policies, be tough on crime, be optimistic and patriotic about America, talk about faith, concentrate on your core of middle-aged supporters while cultivating the more conservative young voters, and finally, put women out front as often as possible.
Of course, this sounds a lot like what the Republican Party should be doing generally, which underlines the author’s point that Hispanic Americans are a lot like other Americans, and becoming more so all the time.
Robb also gamely offers advice to Democrats on how to retain their Hispanic supporters. His recommendations include “mute all talk of socialism,” “treat Hispanics first as Americans,” “sound as happy to be an American as most Hispanics are,” and “move to an American worker-oriented immigration policy.” You almost have to laugh at these subheadings, not because the advice is unsound but because it’s going to be a long time, if ever, before any major Democratic candidate sincerely and believably embraces any of this. When’s the last time you heard a Democratic officeholder “sound happy to be an American”?
Robb is appropriately modest in his forecast and doesn’t repeat Judis and Teixeira’s mistake by predicting “The Coming Republican Majority.” But he does note that “If Hispanic moderate-to-conservative voters join the White working class in moving into the Republican Party, everything will alter for politics in America.” And if you’d read Political Migrants, you’d know why.