“If you have a problem figuring out whether you’re for me or Trump then you ain’t black,” blurted candidate Joe Biden during a May 2020 interview.
Biden quickly apologized for that flagrant act of racial stereotyping. But he was far from the first politician to take a racial or ethnic group’s support for granted, and he surely won’t be the last.
Consider the failed effort by former State Sen. Dianne Wilkerson and other black activists to coalesce black voter support behind the 2021 mayoral candidacy of acting mayor Kim Janey. Despite reams of publicity about Janey becoming the first person of her race to ever serve as mayor she finished an anemic fourth in the low-turnout preliminary, winning a plurality in precincts with less than 20% white voters but losing badly to Michelle Wu in the other majority non-white precincts, and even losing to the “white” candidate – Annissa Essaibi George – in areas that skew narrowly non-white.
Moral of the story: black voters are not sheep, available for herding strictly on the basis of color. A new survey by the MassINC polling group finds the same is true of Massachusetts Latinos.
For starters, ixnay on the trendy PC term “Latinx” to describe these voters. Asked how they describe themselves,
46% chose Latino, 36% Hispanic. Just five percent in a poll with a +/-3.5% margin of error chose “Latinx.”
The MassINC survey suggests the growing Latino voter support for Republicans – up to 39% in last year’s midterms, mirroring gains made by the Trump-led GOP ticket in 2016 and 2020 – hasn’t significantly penetrated deep-blue Massachusetts yet. Despite a decent showing among Latinos posted by Charlie Baker in 2018, only 14% say the Massachusetts GOP shares their values, a tribute to chairman Jim Lyons’s skillful poisoning of the party brand. But 25% of Latinos aged 18-29 say they identify as Republicans, well above the numbers who lean Republican on issues.
And get a load of the issues Latinos most want state leaders to prioritize: affordable housing, affordable health care, affordable childcare, creating jobs and reducing unemployment, ensuring high-quality K-12 education. Protection of immigrant rights lags way down the list. And there is little emphasis among local Latinos on so-called “progressive agenda” items: climate change, abortion access, putting more women and minorities in office.
No wonder 42% of them in a poll taken in early December – after a full year of Maura Healey flogging many of those very same issues – said they’ve never heard of her.
Healey doesn’t make a big deal of her Catholicism, but large numbers of local Latinos do. Nearly four in ten identify themselves as Catholic, a number that tops 50% among some demographic sub-groups. They attend religious services significantly more often than the population at large, with nearly a third going to church weekly or more. And 34% think abortion should be illegal in most (16%) or all cases (18%).
Unless local Republicans take out the trash and dramatically clean up their act, there’s little reason Democrats should feel uneasy about Latino voter support – for now. But as Biden might put it after watching the continuing erosion of Latino support for Democrats: If you have a problem figuring out whether you’ve got a problem, you ain’t listening.
Subscribe to MASSterList
Start your morning with MASSterList’s chronicle of news and informed analysis about politics, policy, media, and influence in Massachusetts. Plus, get an inside look at Beacon Hill’s hottest new job postings.