New Report Finds the Economy, Health Care and COVID-19 – Not Immigration – Will Drive 2020 Latino Vote

Researchers from UMass Amherst Center for Employment Equity and UCLA Latino Policy & Politics Initiative studied voting bloc that could play major role in swing
Donald Tomaskovic-Devey
Donald Tomaskovic-Devey

AMHERST, Mass. – In the four battleground states where Latino voters are most likely to influence 2020 election results — Arizona, Florida, Nevada and Texas — Latinos have lower wages, are less likely to have health insurance and have a higher likelihood of contracting COVID-19 than other racial or ethnic groups.

That finding, from a report published today by the UMass Amherst Center for Employment Equity (CEE) and the UCLA Latino Policy and Politics Initiative, helps explain why Latino registered voters say the economy, health care, the COVID-19 pandemic and racial and ethnic inequality are the top issues in the 2020 election, in a national survey conducted by the Pew Research Center.

The report refutes the common misconception that immigration policy is a top-of-mind issue for Latino voters, and suggests that candidates for federal, state and local offices who want to capture the Latino vote should focus on how they will address Latinos’ concerns about economic and health issues.

In the four battleground states, Latinos make up a larger share of workers than any other ethnic group earning less than $15 an hour. Latinos also receive significantly lower pay than white counterparts doing similar work: Latino workers earn 2.0% less in Arizona, 4.8% less in Florida, 1.6% less in Nevada and 5.3% in Texas than white workers in comparable jobs and with the same level of education.

Many Latinos have continued to work in essential jobs during the pandemic, putting them at a high risk for infection. As a result, Latinos have higher rates of COVID-19 than other racial groups, and are also more likely to be uninsured than any other demographic group in the four states. Compared to whites, the proportion of uninsured Latinos is 2.4 times higher in Arizona, 1.6 times higher in Florida, 2.3 times higher in Nevada and 2.2 times higher in Texas.

“Both political parties need to recognize that Latinos are 18% of all Americans, and this year and in the future they will decide elections,” said Donald Tomaskovic-Devey, founding director of the UMass Center for Employment Equity. “Latinos are citizens and should be valued for their contributions to the society as essential workers, with broad policy preferences that include living wages, freedom from discrimination, and access to high quality health care.”

The report makes the following policy recommendation to address the four issues Latinos are most concerned about:

  • Establish a national minimum wage of at least $15 and eliminate exclusions of minimum wage regulations for domestic, farm and tipped workers.
  • Increase Latino representation, retention and graduation in institutions of higher education through affirmative action, robust financial aid and integrated social welfare programs.
  • Establish universal health coverage and access to health care for all regardless of immigration or employment status.
  • Expand and enforce workplace health and safety regulations to protect workers from exposure to the novel coronavirus.

“Latino voters care about issues other than immigration reform,” said Rodrigo Dominguez-Villegas, research director for the policy and politics initiative and a co-author of the report. “Latinos are essential workers and essential voters, yet they remain overlooked by our nation’s leaders in conversations about health care and the economy. Now more than ever, with Latinos holding the power to determine this election, we must understand the serious economic and health disadvantages faced by Latinos and we must design policies that will address these disadvantages.”

The complete report, “Top Issues for Latino Voters in Swing States for the 2020 Election,” is available on the CEE website.