This Election Cycle, Will Republican Latinos Decide to Vote Democratic?

With Donald Trump’s racist rhetoric permeating his race for candidacy, will Latino voters shift left?

By Laura RiceJune 7, 2016 2:36 pm|

Within the past 24 hours, there’s been an event which the McAllen Monitor is framing as an Edward R. Murrow moment – akin to when the CBS anchorman called out Joseph McCarthy as a bully and a demagogue.

This time, in the opinion of many, the poison spear has been thrown by a Texas congressman of Mexican descent, Rep. Filemon Vela (D-Brownsville). In an open letter that has since gone viral, Vela defends others of Mexican American heritage, while calling Trump a racist and suggesting that the presumptive Republican nominee take his border wall and, in so many words, tells him where to shove it.

In an interview with MSNBC’s Chris Hayes, Vela said that Trump’s rhetoric may cause Latino voters who have previously voted Republican to jump ship and cast their ballot for Clinton.

“I think that with this kind of racist rhetoric that we’re hearing from Donald Trump, that many of those latino voters – who may have previously voted Republican – are going to vote for the Democratic candidate,” Vela said.

But according to Dr. Victoria DeFrancesco Soto, a government professor at the University of Texas at Austin, don’t expect a mass exodus from Republican Latino voters.

“The question for me is whether they’re going to stay home or vote for Hillary Clinton, because that’s a pretty big leap,” DeFrancesco Soto says. “What we’re going to see is a lot of Republican Latinos – and also just a lot of Republican establishment types – stay home, sit this one out. They can’t stomach Trump, but they’re not going to go ahead and cast a ballot for Hillary.”

DeFrancesco Soto says latinos in Texas cast a Republican ballot much more often than the national average, with the exception of Florida. But here in Texas, we’re a little bit different, she says, we tend to be more conservative.

“We see that conservatism shown across the board – white, black, latino,” she says.

There are more options than voting for a democratic contender, DeFrancesco Soto says. In some way, there could be a fundamental shift caused by candidacy, but that depends on what the GOP decides to do this election cycle.

“If we see the GOP go down the track that Trump has laid out – which is putting forward a lot of anti-latino rhetoric, anti-immigrant rhetoric and using a really negative tone – then I do think we are going to see latinos who lean Republican probably pull away, lean more independent,” DeFrancesco Soto says. “However, if after 2016 the republican party says ‘Wait a minute, we need to get back on course. We need to court the latino vote’ … then I think that we’ll see latinos give Republicans a second look.”

Prepared for web by Alexandra Hart and Beth Cortez-Neavel.