Number of Latino voters is growing, but experts wonder in which direction

(Video by Renee Romo/Cronkite News)

WASHINGTON – An estimated 150,000 Latino youth in Arizona will become eligible to vote in the 2024 election, when Hispanics will account for almost one in five voters in the state, according to analysts’ projections.

But how that bloc wields its growing clout remains a question, experts say.

“They’re still not the largest demographic group, but I think they’re the one for the biggest opportunity for either political party,” said Mike Noble, CEO of Phoenix-based Noble Predictive Insights.

Latino voters still lean Democratic, but experts say they are not a monolith: Their political outlook can be affected by age, religion, country of origin and the issues involved, which are as varied as they are for any voting group.

“What’s been troubling to some analysts is that they view the Hispanic vote as one bloc and you can’t because they’re very diverse,” said Sean Noble, political consultant for Compass Strategies.

Latinos have been the second-largest demographic group in Arizona since 2010, and they became the second-largest voting bloc in the state in 2018, according to New York University’s Brennan Center for Justice. The Census Bureau’s “2023 National Population Projections,” released in November, predicts Hispanics will remain the second-largest demographic group in the nation and will continue as one of the fastest-growing for the coming decades.

Mike Noble said that he expects to see Democrats trying to hold onto those Latino votes as “they’re kind of slowly moving to Republicans.”

That’s a shift that Arizona Corporation Commissioner Lea Márquez Peterson hopes to help along. Despite believing that most Latinos still lean Democratic, she recently started Hispanic Leadership PAC, a political action committee that aims to support Hispanic Republicans who run for office.

“My parents are Democrats, my brother and I are Republican. I mean, so we’ve seen a lot of shifting and changing and it really depends on the perspective people are looking towards,” Márquez Peterson said.

She said that polls show “a large percentage” of Latinos in the state are becoming unaffiliated.

“And so I think the real crux of the issue is what does that mean? How do candidates and policy leaders reach independents and what’s important to them?” she asked.

What’s important to them also cannot be taken for granted, experts say,

Clarissa Martinez, vice president of the Unidos Latino Vote Initiative, said that despite what many may think, immigration will not be the No. 1 issue on the minds of Latino voters as they go to the polls next year, even though they still “care deeply” about the issue.

“For Arizona, not surprisingly, inflation and the rising cost of living was the top issue,” Martinez said. “There’s often a misconception … people would think that the only thing Latinos cared about was immigration, and that has never been the case.”

Besides the economy and immigration, both Unidos and the Brennan Center said Latino voters will also be looking at issues like abortion and gun violence.

Related story

Sean Noble said he thinks most older Latino voters tend toward the Republican, but that voting shifts along with the voter’s age.

“If you’re young, you’re more progressive, the older you get, the more conservative you become,” he said. “It’s not that you’re saying you’re conservative, it’s just that you start to drift, you know, on the paradigm.”

That could affect the outcome in 2024, with the Brennan Center’s projection that more than 150,000 Latino youth in Arizona will be voting age next year.

While Mike Noble agrees that age can be a factor in voting, he also highlighted the role that country of origin can play for Latino voters. Most Cubans tend to be “basically MAGA or very, kind of, hard-right conservatives,” he said, while Puerto Ricans seem to be the opposite, being “very Democratic liberal.”

Sean Noble said there is another assumption that can’t be made about Latino voters: Growing numbers does not mean they will all show up to the polls. But Mike Noble said their numbers – Latinos made up 12-14% of the total vote in Arizona three election cycles ago, and are now close to 20% – still makes them an attractive group for any political party.

“They don’t feel like either party really truly cares about them,” Mike Noble said. “So I think they’re a key battleground group for both of these respective political parties.”

Renee Romo(she/her/hers)
News Broadcast Reporter, Washington, D.C.

Renee Romo plans to graduate in December 2023 with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and a minor in political science. Romo is a White House Correspondents’ Association Scholar, who has interned with Arizona Education News Service. Romo also writes for PolitiFact.