‘A lot of voters changed their minds between 2016 and 2020’

(Photo by MARCO BELLO/AFP via Getty Images)

Erik Levitz spoke to pollster David Shor again this week for a post-mortem on the 2020 election. Now that we can see the results precinct by precinct the conclusions are as sobering as a blow to the chest. The GOP chipped away at the traditionally Democratic African American bloc and broke huge chunks from Hispanics:

One important thing to know about the decline in Hispanic support for Democrats is that it was pretty broad. This isn’t just about Cubans in South Florida. It happened in New York and California and Arizona and Texas. Really, we saw large drops all over the country. But it was notably larger in some places than others. In the precinct-level data, one of the things that jumps out is that places where a lot of voters have Venezuelan or Colombian ancestry saw much larger swings to the GOP than basically anywhere else in the country. The Colombian and Venezuelan shifts were huge.

One of my favorite examples is Doral, which is a predominantly Venezuelan and Colombian neighborhood in South Florida. One precinct in that neighborhood went for Hillary Clinton by 40 points in 2016 and for Trump by ten points in 2020. One thing that makes Colombia and Venezuela different from much of Latin America is that socialism as a brand has a very specific, very high salience meaning in those countries. It’s associated with FARC paramilitaries in Colombia and the experience with President Maduro in Venezuela. So I think one natural inference is that the increased salience of socialism in 2020 — with the rise of AOC and the prominence of anti-socialist messaging from the GOP — had something to do with the shift among those groups.

As for the story with Hispanics overall, one thing that really comes out very clearly in survey data that we’ve done is that it really comes down to ideology. So when you look at self-reported ideology — just asking people, “Do you identify as liberal, moderate, or conservative” — you find that there aren’t very big racial divides. Roughly the same proportion of African American, Hispanic, and white voters identify as conservative. But white voters are polarized on ideology, while nonwhite voters haven’t been. Something like 80 percent of white conservatives vote for Republicans. But historically, Democrats have won nonwhite conservatives, often by very large margins. What happened in 2020 is that nonwhite conservatives voted for Republicans at higher rates; they started voting more like white conservatives.

Reread the following sentence. Many of us involved in local politics have been figuring how to discuss getting local police out of situations requiring mental health training, or, stickier, how to remove the stinger from Defund the Police as slogan. I can’t. The Trump flags in Westchester are gone; the Blue Lives Matter bumper stickers, proxies for Trumpism, remain. The Hispanics who turned to Trump in 2020 admire authority because it allows them to keep the possessions for which they have scrimped and worked two jobs — at least initially. This fear of unmasked antifa forces marching into West Miami to burn every speedboat and SUV in sight may abate in 2022, but I don’t count on it.

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