Analysis of polling data from Latino Decisions and the Washington Poll indicates there is a public consensus that Latinos are not as welcome as whites in either the Republican or Democratic party. Respondents were asked to rate (on a scale of zero to 10) how welcoming they think each party is toward different ethnic and racial groups. Latino and Non-Latinos agree that both parties are more welcoming toward whites than Latinos. All racial and ethnic groups assigned whites higher scores on the welcome scale irrespective of party. The surveys asked, “On a scale of 0 – 10, how welcoming do you think the [ Democrat / Republican ] Party is towards [ Latinos / Whites ]?”
There is also clear agreement that the Republican Party exhibits significantly less welcome toward Latinos relative to whites. Using a scale of 0 to 10 where zero is most unwelcome and ten is most welcome, the GOP received low average scores on their disposition toward Latinos: 5.1 and 5.7 among Latinos and non-Latinos, respectively. In contrast, whites are viewed as very welcome in the GOP, with averages of 8.2 and 8.8. Democrats are seen as more Latino-friendly, garnering scores of 7 and above from both subsets of voters. The perception that whites are more enthusiastically received holds for the Democratic party too; Latinos and Non-Latinos assign whites higher mean scores.
Even though 54% of Latinos identify as Democrats, only 33% view the Democratic Party as strongly welcoming to Latinos. On the other hand, 41% of Latinos and 53% of non-Latinos perceive whites as very welcome by the party. The disjuncture between party identification and feelings of welcome hint that Latino voter turnout and vote choices may continue to be less predictable relative to other groups.
A healthy majority of the public – 67% of Non-Latinos and 59% of Latinos – views the Republican Party as very welcoming toward whites. Conversely, very few — only 10% of Latinos and 5% of non-Latinos – think the GOP shares that enthusiasm for Latinos. Even though 36% of Latinos identify as conservative, and another 32% as moderate, Republican prospects at cultivating those ideological orientations are limited by widely held perceptions that the party does not welcome them.
Voters are customers in the electoral marketplace, and the customer is always right. It does not really matter if party leaders view themselves as inviting to diverse electorates; it is voter perceptions that matter because they cast ballots, or not. The consensus that Republicans are unwelcoming to Latinos, and that whites are more strongly welcome in both parties indicates that neither party has been successful in conveying an image of inclusiveness that resonates with voters.
Sylvia Manzano is Assistant Professor of Political Science at Texas A&M University