Syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer argued that Hispanics should be a “natural constituency” for Republicans because they are conservative (Special Report w/ Bret Baier, 12/4/12). He maintained that Republicans could tap into this constituency for more votes if they could stop alienating Hispanics by opposing amnesty for illegal aliens.
Fact Check: This commonly made claim ignores the fact that amnesty, as shown by polls, is not really the key issue in terms of Hispanic reluctance to vote for Republicans. The real problem is that Hispanics in general are not conservative, and are not particularly outstanding in the religious and family values often attributed to them.
According to a recent study by the PewHispanicCenter, 30 percent of Hispanics identify themselves as “liberal” compared with 21 percent of the general U.S. population. The study also found that only 19 percent of Hispanics agree with the conservative position that we should have fewer public services and smaller government. Seventy-five percent disagree. Among Americans as a whole 48 percent agreed with the less government position, compared with 41 percent who disagreed.
This preference for more government programs among Hispanics isn’t surprising, given the relatively high level of poverty in the Hispanic community. Twenty-eight percent of Hispanics live in poverty, compared with 16 percent of the population as a whole.
Polls confirm that economic considerations are far more important to Hispanic voters than amnesty and other policies related to immigration. Before the last election, a Fox News Latino Poll found that 48 percent of Hispanics said that the economy would be the most important issue deciding their vote. Only six percent mentioned immigration.
And, again, the economic concerns of many Hispanics are not those of Republicans. In 2011, Moore Information did a poll of Hispanics in California, the state with the largest Hispanic population. Twenty-nine percent objected to the Republicans on grounds that they mainly “favored the rich” and were out of touch with the average person. Only seven percent mentioned immigration as the main cause of their opposition to the party.
What about the claim that Hispanics are a natural GOP constituency on the basis of religious orientation and family values? The findings of General Social Survey are not encouraging for Republicans. Hispanics are somewhat less likely to attend worship services regularly than the general population (29 percent to 31 percent). With respect to family values, according to the National Vital Statistics Report, 53.2 percent of Hispanic babies were born out of wedlock in 2010, compared with the national average of 41 percent. The percentages for other groups were as follows: whites, 29 percent; blacks, 72.5 percent; and Asians 17 percent.
What then can Republicans do to appeal to Hispanic voters? One possibility is explaining to them that amnesty and mass immigration are harmful to their economic concerns.
Specifically, they can argue that amnesty will encourage more illegal immigration, and that more job seekers (illegal and legal) will reduce job opportunities and wage levels for American Hispanics. Currently the unemployment rate for Hispanics (10 percent) is significantly higher than the national average (7.7 percent).
Republicans could address to the desire of Hispanics (foreign and native-born) to achieve the American Dream, by pointing out that the immigration restriction laws of 1921 and 1924 greatly assisted the assimilation and economic advancement of immigrants and their children in the decades following those laws.
They might also point out to rank and file Hispanics that the goal of pro-immigration Hispanic groups is building ethic political clout for themselves, with a poor and alienated base, rather than lose power by seeing Hispanics move into the American mainstream.
Something that may stop this form of Republican outreach is the influence of the GOP’s powerful faction that wants mass immigration to continue for the sake of cheap labor. If that faction prevails, poverty and alienation among Hispanics will increase, as well as their overall opposition to the Republican Party.