Sylvia Puente heads the Chicago-based Latino Policy Forum. She said she’s surprised at the controversy about the number of Latinos who voted for President Trump. Each presidential election cycle, about 30% of Latinos vote Republican.
Puente said this shows the lack of understanding that pundits have about the Latino vote. She sat down with WBEZ to explain.
On what comes to mind when Puente hears “Latino vote”: I’m surprised the people are surprised at how diverse the Latino vote is because we, of course, know that the Latino vote is not monolithic. Consistently, between 25% and 30% of the Latino electorate has voted Republican. The high-water mark being in the [George W.] Bush era 40% of Latinos voted for him since he was a governor of Texas and had a pretty solid relationship with many Latinos and predominantly Mexican Americans from that area.On Chicago Latino voting patterns: We live in a blue state and most Latinos who are eligible to register to vote live in the Chicago region so overwhelmingly they do vote Democrat. It’s also just important to point out that the way Cubans vote in Florida is not how people from Los Angeles might vote. Latinos voting Republican every election cycle is good for a democracy. It’s good for the Latino vote not being taken for granted by either political party. If I were to give one message, it would be that both political parties and all political parties need to do more outreach to Latino communities in soliciting and earning our vote.
On conservative values: Values certainly do shape our perspective given that the faith nature of many Latinos — whether they’re Catholic or evangelical — will certainly influence their vote. But I don’t think it’s the only determining factor. I’ll use my father as my example. He is an evangelical Christian, but we have this … always very interesting conversation where he really looks more at the issues of the economy and jobs and health care and the overall socio-economic status of where the Latinos are in the nation as a barometer on where to vote. His faith is certainly a consideration but not the driving consideration.
On younger Latino voters: Our young people are taking to the streets in this time of civil unrest and advocating for equity. What I have often said is: will our young Latino voters, who take to the streets, take their righteous anger and translate it to the ballot box? We saw mobilization in Chicago, and what flipped Arizona was young Latinos who really organized for the Democatic party. We’re seeing that all over the country. We’re seeing that with the activism of our “dreamers,” who cannot vote, who are still working on electoral campaigns and encouraging and asking others in the Latino community to vote because they can’t. I am really excited about the political activism that we’re seeing among our youth and how it continues to influence the electoral process into the future.