How to Win the White House in 2016: Making Inroads Among Hispanic Voters

Hispanic voters should be treated as individuals, as opposed to a single monolithic group.

Editor's Note: Below are excerpts of a report produced by Americas Majority Foundation by Tom Donelson and JD Johannes. The report is being turned into a book.

The Democrats’ strategy is based on the premise that there are two Americas, the rich and the rest of us. In many ways, it could easily be argued, there are two Hispanic Americas. Michael Gonzalez in his recent book, The Race to the Future,”noted that many second and third generation Hispanic migrants since the mid 60’s have seen only modest improvement in education and no increase in wages from the previous generation.

There is a second Hispanic world not seen or fully understood. In two separate surveys conducted after the 2010 election, Americas Majority Foundation found that between 37-39% of Hispanics and 20-30% of African-Americans had retirement plans of $25,000 or more.

Also 14% of Hispanics own their business, and this number was repeated in a 2012 post-election survey of Illinois Hispanics. Just look at the unemployment numbers, and you will find that while the Hispanic unemployment numbers are higher than non-Hispanic whites, their labor participation rate is higher. More Hispanics per population working is higher than the nation as a whole, and Hispanics are half as likely as blacks to work for the government. While nearly 15% of whites work for the government, only one out of every ten Hispanics work for the government. Many Hispanics, whether on the low end or the high end, are more likely to be employed in the private sector. Pew studied wealth gap increases between whites, blacks and Hispanics and reviewed data among different demographics. It was found that among Hispanics, 26% had a 401K, 11% had and IRA, and 5% owned stock for total investment averaging $42,000. The national survey conducted by McKeon and Associates for Americas Majority Foundation found that 19% of Hispanics were self-employed or own their own business. Exit polls for Hispanic voters in Wisconsin, Illinois and New Mexico stated that 19 to 20% owned their own business or were self-employed. Nearly 23% of Hispanics in our National poll either owned their own business or were self-employed.

Two national polls by Americas Majority Foundation reported a drop in the amount in their retirement funds. In a survey done in August, 2014 only 5% of Hispanics reported having at least $25,000 for retirement and 31% in our post-election poll reported having 25,000 dollars for retirement or emergencies. There has been a drop in retirement portfolios over the past five years, and while others have found our numbers to be high, we purposely did not ask Hispanics or blacks if they have 401Ks, IRAs or other investment portfolios since, as one financial advisor we talked with mentioned, some immigrants will consider the company they own as their retirement.

In a conversation with a business woman, this point was made clear to us. The woman owned a business with her brother and she mentioned she had no retirement. However, when asked what is her business was worth if she sold it, she said with no hesitation, “200,000 dollars.” For many Hispanics, the recession and recovery has not just hurt their own economic prosperity, but they have yet to recover to 2007 levels. The Federal Reserve bulletin in September 2014, in contrasting Hispanic families’ income to white's, noted,

Over the 2010–13 period, median income for white non-Hispanic families decreased modestly, 1 percent, whereas their mean income increased 8 percent. Their incomes in both years were much higher than non-white or Hispanic families, who saw declines in median income of 9 percent and declines in mean income of 11 percent… Mean and median net worth of non-Hispanic white families changed similarly, a 1 percent mean increase and 2 percent median increase, with median net worth reaching $142,000 and mean net worth reaching $705,900 in 2013. However, the median net worth of non-white or Hispanic families fell 17 percent to $18,100, and mean net worth fell 2 percent to $183,900.

While whites in our post-election were comparable to Hispanics and blacks on either being self-employed or owning their own business, 53% of whites had at least 25,000 dollars set aside for retirement or emergencies. Hispanics' net worth and what they had in retirement were nearly less than half of whites.'

The Kaufmann Institute noted that since 1996, small businesses owned and started by Hispanics doubled compared to the rest of the population. Economic well-being matters to Hispanics, and many Hispanics have seen their income decline. Go back to the Radio Sales manager who talked about how the economy is not improving and how local city bureaucracy affects Hispanics entrepreneurs. Many of these city bureaucracy are run by Democratic office holders.

Republicans' first objective is not to be dismissive of Hispanics or use language that is inflammatory. For Hispanics, immigration reform is not just about the law, it is about families. 40% of Hispanics know someone who came here illegally, and three out of five illegals have been here longer than ten years. Many of these illegals have children born in the United States, and while we are not here to make a case for immigration reform or what it should look like, it is equally important to understand those we are trying to reach. While many Hispanics are liberals when it comes to policies, Hispanics often do agree with Republicans on many issues. Hispanics do not accept Keynesian economics and that is an opening for Republicans to take advantage. It is said that Hispanics are Republicans, but don’t know it. Our argument is that while the majority of Hispanics will vote Democratic; at least 40 percent of Hispanics are Republicans, and quite few of them don’t know it.

Hispanic voters should be treated as individuals, as opposed to a single monolithic group. Hispanics are made up of different groups, and within those groups there exist dividing lines that are often invisible. Many Mexicans who live in the Southwest have lived there before there was a United States, as one Mexican American mentioned to me, “Our family didn’t cross the border, the border crossed us.” Their view on immigration policies differs from those who have arrived as immigrants over the past three decades.

Mexican immigrants who are here seeking economic opportunity view the world differently than Cubans who came here to escape a communist dictator. Within the Hispanic communities, you see immigrants from South America, Central America, the Dominican Republic or perhaps a United States citizen via Puerto Rico. Understanding the nuances of the Hispanic world will allow Republicans and conservatives to more accurately target their approach to Hispanic voters.

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