Latina voters

A volunteer helps a Latina voter register in Las Vegas, Nevada. (AP)

Five Things to Know about the Latino Vote in 2024

By Chase Harrison and Jon Orbach

Latinos make up 15 percent of the U.S. electorate and can play a key role in swing states. Learn more about this key demographic.

March 5 marks Super Tuesday in the United States, when 15 states hold their presidential primaries and caucuses. That includes the two states with the largest number of Latinos in the country: California and Texas. By the end of the night, not only could the presidential nominees likely be solidified as President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump, but preferences of this important and diverse bloc may be clearer.

Latinos are primed to play a pivotal role in United States’ November 5 presidential and legislative elections, with 36 million voters—or 15 percent of the electorate—identifying with this group. The power of this demographic has grown each election; its share of the electorate has doubled since 2000, making Latinos the second-fastest growing voter bloc in the country.

What do we know about the Latino vote? How have their preferences changed since the last presidential race? AS/COA Online looks at key details.

Economic issues dominate Latinos’ priorities more than in the past.

Latinos have long given importance to the economy, but this year’s polls show this issue area growing as a concern. UnidosUS asked respondents to list their top three issues in November 2023, and economic matters came up big. Some 54 percent named inflation and the rising cost of living as a top issue—an 8-point jump compared with polling conducted prior to 2022 midterms. Similarly, 44 percent named jobs and the economy as a top issue, marking a 15-point leap on this topic.

These changes may not be so surprising, given that the U.S. inflation rate reached a 41-year high in 2022. Lack of affordable housing appeared in 2023 as a top-five issue for Latinos for the first time, too. 

How do Latinos view the parties’ ability to address these issues? Some 39 percent say the Democratic party would be best at addressing their top concern, while 21 percent opted for the Republican party. 

Interestingly, despite assumptions that immigration would be a top concern for Latinos, it didn’t break the top five issues, per UnidosUS. That contrasts with Gallup polling of top concerns across the general population. The pollster’s February 2024 survey found that the largest portion of U.S. voters—28 percent—consider immigration the country’s biggest problem, followed by 20 percent naming the government and 12 percent selecting the economy.

Biden leads among Latinos but polls below 2020 victory levels

While Democrats consistently secure the Latino vote, the extent of their advantage has varied over time. In the 2012 race, for example, incumbent President Barack Obama won 71 percent of the Latino vote, amounting to a 36-point advantage for Democrats, while in 2004, Republican incumbent George W. Bush earned 40 percent of the bloc’s support, translating to a smaller 18-point lead for Democrats

In the 2020 presidential race, Biden won 66 percent of the Latino vote over Trump’s 32 percent. Recent polling indicates that the gap in support between the rivals could narrow. The UnidosUS poll shows 51 percent of Latinos favor a Biden presidency while 33 percent say they prefer Trump. Some 47 percent approve of Biden’s handling of the presidency.

The Latino vote has outsized influence in some states.

Certain U.S. states account for a larger portion of Latino residents, with 16 million in California, 12 million in Texas, 5 million in Florida, 4 million in New York, and 2 million in Illinois. By percentage, New Mexico (48 percent), California (39 percent), Texas (39 percent), Arizona (31 percent), and Nevada (29 percent) have the highest portion of Latino residents.

Latino populations look different in each state, too. In California and Texas, Mexican-Americans are the most common group, while Florida and New York have large Caribbean populations. Foreign-born Latinos make up almost half of Florida’s bloc but just 28 percent of Texas' Latinos. These types of demographic differences, alongside varying economic conditions and media environments, affect the partisan leanings regarding Democrats or Republicans in each state’s Latino population. In the 2020 presidential race, 48 percent of male Latino voters in Florida and Nevada identified as Republican, compared with just 22 percent in California. Parties will likely keep these partisan spreads in mind, as well as the particularities of the U.S. elections. The Electoral College works as a winner-takes-all system in each state, which could reduce the focus on the Latino vote in more solidly Democratic states like California, New Mexico, and New York. However, in swing states like Arizona, Florida, and Nevada, Latinos could prove pivotal.

While solidly blue California is not considered a presidential battleground state, it does feature a competitive Super Tuesday Senate primary between Democrats representing various levels of progressive on issues like Israel/Palestine and financial regulation. That race may provide a window into whether Latinos want a more moderate or progressive president for the future of the Democratic party.

Turnout will determine Latino voters' influence.

At 37.9 percent in the last midterm, voter turnout for Latinos trailed the national 46-percent average. Low turnout is particularly acute among Latinos aged 18–29, only 14 percent of whom voted in 2022. Under-30s make up nearly a third of the Latino voters, and some 22 percent of voters in this bloc will be eligible to cast a ballot for their first presidential election this time around.

Outreach will be critical to improving turnout. In a survey by the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO) Educational Fund, 48 percent of Latinos reported they weren’t contacted by any organization ahead of the 2022 midterms.

One potential key to Latino outreach? Unions. About 10 percent of Latinos are members of unions, which in the past have done some of the most significant outreach efforts to Latinos, especially on behalf of Democrats. In 2022, the culinary union in Nevada claimed to have knocked on the door of half of the state’s Latino residents. In states like Florida and Pennsylvania, unions spearheaded large-scale outreach efforts in 2020.

Campaigns are looking to Latino-focused outlets and social media.

One way to perform outreach is through the more than 550 Latino news media outlets in the United States. Campaigns—and SuperPACs—have been spending increasing sums on running ads on Latino media sites, with a focus on Spanish-language ads. In the 2022 midterms, Democrats spent $54 million, and Republicans nearly $30 million. But this represented only about 2.5 percent of overall media spending for Democrats and 1 percent for Republicans.

Spending for this cycle started early for Democrats. In August 2023, the party announced a $25 million, 16-week advertising buy in Latino and Black media outlets in battleground states. The party’s ads also feature people and voiceovers with different national accents tailored to Hispanic communities of various backgrounds across the country.

Even as spending rises in terms of print and television media, studies showed that three-quarters of Latinos get their news from the internet, with 47 percent saying that in 2022 YouTube was the news source they viewed most. In their social media outreach, campaigns will need to contend with the growing problem of disinformation on these platforms, which disproportionately affects Latinos.