5 Policy Issues that Show Why Jeb Bush Will Lose the Latino Vote

After Mitt Romney’s disastrous performance with Latino voters in 2012, some election observers have suggested Jeb Bush is the obvious candidate to help Republicans win over Latino voters.

Bush’s supposed advantages are based on three specific observations—that the Bush family has historically had a more positive relationship with this community than other candidates in the GOP, that the Spanish-speaking Jeb personally benefits from having a Mexican-born wife and Mexican-American children, and that Bush has a history of more moderate positions on issues of importance to the Latino community.

None of these is likely to withstand deeper examination.  The first two—the broader family history and the personal characteristics of Bush’s immediate family—are based on a form of identity politics that Latinos seldom if ever practice.  Latino voters have proven more than willing to reject even actual Latinos as candidates when their policy positions are in contrast to the community preferences.  Bush’s marriage and linguistic skills, while symbolically important, would founder if his issue positions are in contrast to the average Latino voter.

So what about those issue positions?  Bush’s misplaced reputation for moderation is belied by his actual policy record.  And few if any analysts have stopped to consider how Bush’s specific policy issues line up with Latino support for key policy issues.  If Bush is to ultimately be the Republican nominee, Latino voters will no-doubt review and assess his policy commitments.  In a review of recent statements by Jeb Bush, we find five significant policy areas where Latino public opinion stands in direct contrast to policy advocated by Jeb Bush.  Additionally, Jeb Bush is not currently campaigning for the average Latino voter but, rather, is campaigning for the average GOP primary voter, his path over the next months is far more likely to push him further away from the average Latino voter on a wide range of important policy issues.

Here are five policy areas where Jeb Bush is at odds with Latino voter public opinion:

1. Obama’s Executive Orders on Immigration

Jeb Bush has said that he is against the Obama executive orders on immigration reform which would protect from deportation young immigrants who came to the country as children (DACA), and immigrants who are the parents of U.S. citizens (DAPA). When asked if he would undo the most recent Obama executive orders Bush told radio host Michael Medved, “The DACA and the DAPA? Yes I would” and called the Obama immigration orders “ill-advised.” When it comes to comprehensive immigration reform, Bush has said “He would greatly strengthen border security, linking any legalized status for illegal immigrants to tangible progress on objective border security metrics.” And wrote in his 2013 book that “Permanent residency in this context, however, should not lead to citizenship.”

In a November 2014 poll of Latino registered voters nationwide 89% said they supported the Obama executive actions known as DACA and DAPA, and 80% said they would oppose any efforts to block or repeal these executive actions protecting immigrants. In another poll conducted in November of 2014, 67% of Latinos voters said immigration issues were either the most important, or one of the most important issues in evaluating candidates and their decision to vote.

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Further, Latino voters strongly reject a “border security first” approach – only 13% support Bush on that in a 2013 national survey, while 81% said they want to see a focus on a path to citizenship implemented at the same time any border security measures are implemented, not making a path to citizenship contingent on border security litmus tests as Bush has proposed.

Finally, when asked in 2013 what they thought about giving immigrants legal status, but not citizenship, 78% of Latino voters said they would oppose such a plan. In every survey we have seen on this point, Latino voters reject any notion of second-class status for immigrants.

2. Medicaid Expansion and Obamacare

Latinos continue to have the highest rates of being uninsured.  According to one estimate, 200,000 Latinos in Jeb Bush’s home state of Florida alone would gain health insurance through Medicaid expansion, which Florida has blocked.  On the issue of Medicaid expansion Bush has said he does not support expanding Medicaid under Obamacare because “expanding Medicaid without reforming it is not going to solve our problems over the long run” and called Obamacare a “monstrosity” and “flawed to its core

In a Nov 2014 poll of Latino voters 77% nationwide and 74% of Latinos in Florida said they thought states should take federal money to expand Medicaid programs. When it comes to Obamacare, only 25% of Latino voters in 2012 said they wanted to see it repealed, while fully 66% said they think the federal government should help ensure access to health insurance.  In a national poll in 2013, fully 89% of Latinos said they wanted to learn more about the benefits available under the Affordable Care Act and 75% said “in the long run” the ACA will be good for Latinos in the U.S.

3. Raising the Minimum Wage

On minimum wage, Jeb Bush has said he is against raising the minimum wage and wants to let the private sector decide what the minimum pay should be, “We need to leave it to the private sector. I think state minimum wages are fine. The federal government shouldn’t be doing this

Latino workers are heavily represented in lower income categories and disproportionately find themselves as minimum wage workers. In a Nov 2014 poll of Latino voters, 78% said they want to see the federal minimum wage raised to $10.10 per hour, including 80% of Latino voters in Florida.   While Jeb Bush stated that “minimum wages are fine” a national poll in July 2014 found that 67% of Latino were somewhat or very concerned they were currently not earning enough to pay their basic expenses.

4. The Importance of Addressing Climate Change

On environmental issues and climate change Jeb Bush has that it’s not clear that climate change is a man-made phenomenon and that the EPA is doing too much and that “We have to begin to rein in this top-down driven regulatory system.” Bush says he wants the federal government to provide more incentives for hydraulic fracking and horizontal drilling.

In contrast to Jeb Bush, 82% of Latinos in a 2013 national poll said they were somewhat or very concerned that human activity is causing the earth to get warmer. In contrast to a weaker EPA, 77% of Latinos said they would support the President taking executive action through the EPA to flight climate change. On the issue of fracking, polling data from Colorado, a state where hydraulic fracking for oil shale was being debated, found that 70% of Latinos opposed increased fracking and oil shale development. Overall, 84% of Latino voters in 2014 said it was important for the federal government to take measures to reduce carbon pollution.

5. Taxes on the Super Wealthy

When it comes to the federal budget deficit, Jeb Bush created a bit of a stir three years ago when he said he was open to small revenue increases, however a senior spokesperson, Kristy Campbell, made clear in 2014 that Gov. Bush does not support any new tax increases. Rather, a headline in Forbes Magazine outlining the Bush tax plan said “Jeb Bush Catered Tax Cuts to the Wealthy” pointing out that he favored providing tax cuts for the wealthy and “tax relief for rich investors.”  Coupled with tax cuts for the wealthy, Bush has called for more spending cuts and touted his record as Florida Governor in vetoing state budgets for schools, job training and parks, regularly bragging about his extensive use of the line-item veto to cut state spending.

Polling data from Latino Decisions has repeatedly found Latinos oppose additional cuts to government services and instead support new tax increases on the most wealthy as a way to generate more revenue to address the deficit.  In a 2012 poll of Latino voters 87% wanted to see tax increases on the super wealthy as part of the budget deficit solution, including 82% of Latino voters in Florida. When given a direct choice between lowering taxes or increasing government investment, only 25% of Latinos thought lowering taxes was the best approach to help the economy grow while 67% thought increased investment in new infrastructure projects was more important.


Matt Barreto is co-founder and principal at Latino Decisions, and Professor of Political Science at the UCLA. Gary Segura is co-founder and principal of Latino Decisions, and Professor of American Politics at Stanford University. Barreto and Segura’s latest book is Latino America: How America’s Most Dynamic Population is Poised to Transform the Politics of the Nation.

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