What issues will matter most to Hispanic voters in 2024?

Here’s where they stand on immigration, the environment, abortion and more.

By Monica Potts and Holly Fuong, 538

Are Hispanic voters shifting to the right? It’s a question that’s dominated the last few election cycles. Even as Democrats maintain an overall advantage with Hispanic voters, Republicans have slowly made gains, especially in key states like Florida.

But a 538 analysis of data from the Cooperative Election Study, a Harvard University survey of at least 60,000 Americans taken before the 2020 elections and the 2022 midterms, shows that Hispanic voters remain to the left of the general electorate on key issues like immigration and environmental policy. In other areas, Hispanic voters are largely similar to the general electorate.

So what could be behind Republican gains? The CES survey, of course, doesn’t poll on all of the issues that are behind voters’ decision-making. What it does suggest is that Hispanic voters aren’t solidly in either ideological camp and could be motivated to vote by a range of issues, even if they haven’t in the past.

In 2024, which looks likely to be a 2020 rematch between former President Donald Trump and President Joe Biden, both parties will be looking to improve on their 2020 performances, and fine-tuning their messaging and outreach efforts to this historically low-turnout demographic will be key. “Most [Hispanic voters] are not single-issue voters,” said Melissa Morales, the president and founder of Somos Votantes and Somos PAC, an independent outreach group that has endorsed Democratic candidates. “There’s a bunch of things that are going to come in to affect how they vote.”

What does the growing Hispanic electorate look like?

Overall, Hispanic voters* made up about 11 percent of the electorate in 2020. That’s relatively low compared to an estimated 19 percent of the total U.S. population. But they’re also the fastest-growing demographic group in the country. And while the share of this group that’s eligible to vote and turning out to vote is low compared to other groups, it’s growing every year. In 2024, Hispanic voters are poised to make a bigger impact than ever before, but what that impact means for the results will depend a lot on who among them decides to vote, and why.

“That’s a cyclical problem that people say, ‘Latinos don’t turn out.’ But then most Latinos will say, ‘No party or candidate contacted me and I didn’t know who to vote for, and thus I didn’t vote.’ And round and round we go,” said Cristina Tzintzún Ramirez, president of NextGen, a progressive youth voter mobilization organization.

CES data shows that Hispanic voters are more likely to be young, with more than 30 percent of those voters under 30, compared with 21 percent of the general electorate. That means many of them are squarely in a generation that’s already more diverse and further to the left on many issues than the general electorate. And only 13 percent are 65 or older, compared to 22 percent of the general electorate.

White voters without college degrees have moved solidly into the Republican camp, and voters of color with the same education levels have seemed to do the same. Hispanic Americans are less educated on average than the electorate as a whole: Based on 2020 CES data, about half have only a high school education, while 19 percent are college graduates, compared with 37 percent and 31 percent of the general electorate, respectively. What will happen within the huge group of Hispanic voters without college degrees, and why, is one of the big unanswered questions both parties are facing as we head into the 2024 presidential election.

Hispanic voters are further to the left on immigration policies

On immigration policy issues, perhaps unsurprisingly, Hispanic voters are further to the left than the general electorate. In the 2020 CES, Hispanic voters were 14 points more likely than the general electorate to support giving legal status to immigrants who have held jobs and not been convicted of a crime. They were also less likely to support increasing border security measures like hiring more border patrol officers and building a wall than the general electorate, and less supportive of measures to curb legal immigration. Their stances on immigration questions differed from the general electorate by 9 to 13 points, showing that the group was significantly more liberal. The differences were similar in 2022.

In 2016, when Trump ran a campaign focused on anti-immigration policies, he lost Hispanic voters to the Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton, two to one. But his anti-immigration rhetoric didn’t turn out a record wave of Hispanic voters to vote against him and become solidly loyal Democrats, as some had predicted. Instead, his base of support among the group was on par with or even better than that shown for previous nominees Sen. Mitt Romney and Sen. John McCain. That led observers to conclude that a significant and steady minority of Hispanic voters, around a third, were probably conservative and unlikely to abandon Republicans.

In 2020, Trump made gains among Hispanic voters. Immigration was a less important issue that year, when voters were much more focused on COVID-19 and the economic wreckage surrounding the pandemic. Biden won the group overall, 59 percent to 38 percent, but Trump made gains among a specific group: those without college degrees.

Immigration has been rising in salience among voters and continues to be a losing issue for Biden. Whether it’s a winning issue for either party among Hispanic voters remains to be seen, however. Republican front-runner Trump has made overtly racist and fascist remarks about immigration, while Biden has signaled he’s willing to deal with Republicans on immigration policy in order to pass aid for Ukraine in its war against Russia — a stance that could turn off some Hispanic voters. “The Democratic Party needs to make sure that they’re not bargaining away the rights of immigrants in this country, because it is still a very, very important issue to the Latino community,” Tzintzún Ramirez said.

Hispanic voters favor environmental regulations

Hispanic voters were about 9 points more likely than the general electorate to support increasing the Environmental Protection Agency’s regulatory powers, according to the 2020 CES data. They were also more supportive than the general electorate of giving the EPA the power to regulate carbon, and requiring that states use a minimum amount of renewable energy, by 9 and 8 points, respectively. The 2022 numbers were similar.

Historically, climate change isn’t an issue that motivates voters, regardless of their opinions on it. Polling shows that while many voters think climate change is a serious problem, it’s not determining how they vote. But for some Hispanic voters, the direct effects of climate change could increase its salience. The states with the highest shares of eligible Hispanic voters are in the South and Southwest, regions that have been heavily impacted by rising temperatures.

“Latino communities are often on the front lines of the negative effects of issues like immigration and environmental policy,” Morales said. “When we think about things like environmental issues, whether we’re talking about access to clean water, or is it too hot outside to work without health risks or send our children out to play … negative aspects of these issues can affect our families so much that they can also be a litmus test for our community.”

She said that was especially true in Arizona, which experienced dangerous, record-breaking heat waves last summer. Hispanic voters — who have been disproportionately affected by extreme heat in the state — are a key block, making up around a quarter of the state’s eligible voting population, and Morales expects the topic to come up again this year.

But other issues could rise in salience for Hispanic voters

Some on the other side of the aisle think Hispanic voters may be more focused on other issues. Lorna Romero Ferguson, a political strategist for Republican candidates and founder of Elevate Strategies, a communications and public affairs firm based in Phoenix, said the Hispanic voters she hears from in Arizona are very concerned about public safety. Republican candidates might be able to chip away at Democrats’ advantages among Hispanic voters on immigration issues by working harder to tie border security to public safety, she said. “Being able to focus on public safety, and what’s happening in the actual communities in Arizona, is something that Republicans can seize on,” Romero Ferguson said, pointing to news stories about fentanyl and other drugs coming across the border into the U.S. “Especially when you see what’s happening in the news, you see the visuals, and people can translate that to what they’re seeing in their communities.”

Crime has been a big issue among the Republican candidates for president so far, and polling shows that voters think Republicans would do a better job dealing with it than Democrats would. On issues of policing, like decreasing the number of police officers on the street or eliminating mandatory minimum sentences for nonviolent drug offenders, Hispanics were not consistently further to the left or right of the overall electorate, and the differences were small. On a wide range of other issues included in the CES, ranging from banning assault rifles to allowing abortions as a matter of choice, Hispanics also did not vary significantly or predictably from the general electorate.

One area that did stand out was policies related to health care access. Hispanics in 2020 were more likely to support expanding Medicare to cover all Americans than the general electorate was by 14 points, and they were more likely to support lowering the age for Medicare eligibility from 65 to 50 by the same margin.

Ultimately, Hispanic voters have historically been less likely to turn out than other demographic groups, and a substantial portion of them may once again be inclined to sit on the sidelines unless something strongly motivates them to vote.

A look at 2022 provides an example of how competing issues might come into play to influence turnout. Issues like economic policy — which can be more complicated and harder to evaluate than many of the policy issues polled in the CES — may be especially powerful for working-class Hispanics (and other people of color). Analysis from Equis Research showed that, in 2022, Hispanic voters, like most voters, were concerned about the economy and cost of living, and that those who rated that as their top concern were more likely to support Republican candidates.

But Republican gains based on economic concerns may have been overshadowed by a surge among voters who were motivated by the Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization to overturn Roe v. Wade. Abortion-focused voters turned out in higher-than-expected numbers and overwhelmingly supported Democrats, leading to a better-than-expected year for the party in a midterm election where the fundamentals — namely, Biden’s low approval rating and economic struggles — seemed to favor Republicans. Data has suggested this may be a driving issue for Latino voters too. Morales said that polarizing issues like abortion are particularly suited to motivate voters to turn out against a candidate’s ideas and policies. “What we’ve seen is that this gets back to, ‘Am I voting for someone? Or am I voting against someone else?'” she said.

As we head into the 2024 election cycle, one thing that’s clear is that candidates across the ideological spectrum have room to grow and plenty of incentive to reach out to Latino voters. Tzintzún Ramirez, Morales and Romero Ferguson all said that neither party had focused on that enough until recently. “Outreach matters,” Romero Ferguson said. “[Hispanic voters] just want to be talked to. And they feel like they never hear from candidates.”


*In this analysis, “Hispanic voters” consist of all respondents who identified as Hispanic when asked about their race, regardless of their voting status at the time of the survey because this status as an active voter can easily change. The general electorate consists of all respondents who were at least 18 years old. For more information on methodology, see the italicized section below.


The Cooperative Election Survey is administered by YouGov and consists of a nationally representative sample of American adults. The 2020 preelection survey included 61,000 adults (referred to in this analysis as the general electorate), of which 5,180 were considered Hispanic voters (identified as Hispanic race), including 2,560 Hispanic validated voters who voted in the 2020 general election and 2,600 who did not vote in the 2020 general election. The 2022 preelection survey included 60,000 adults, of which 5,357 were considered Hispanic voters including 2,002 who voted in the 2022 general election and 3,355 who did not vote in the 2022 general election.

The general electorate was the broadest group of adult Americans: all adults aged 18 or older, regardless of their race or status as active registered voters. If we limited our analysis only to those who were active voters at the time of the survey, the analysis might not be representative of the broader general electorate that is currently eligible to vote, as an individual’s status as an active registered voter can easily change.

We compared adult Americans to Hispanic electorates (among all respondents and those who voted in the 2020 or 2022 general elections) from the last two elections and found that opinions were fairly similar between years across all groups except where noted in the story above. Actively registered voters were verified by the CES, according to Catalist (in 2020) or TargetSmart (in 2022) records.

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