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A majority of younger ‘Latinx’ adults – 55% - are hopeful that a new, more diverse Congress, will change the direction of the country by favoring progressive legislation, according to a new Voto Latino poll.
Only 16% of the 18-35 age-group said they were not optimistic about the possibility of change.
A slight majority - 52% - also said they thought the country was headed in the right direction, apparently encouraged by the outcome of the November election which saw Democrats recover control of the House of Representatives with an influx of more women and candidates of color.
“The feel they sent representatives [to Congress] who represent their values,” said Maria Teresa Kumar, president of Voto Latino, a Hispanic political rights organization which commissioned the poll.
Among 20 policy issues surveyed in the Voto Latino poll, immigration remains the most important for latinos across the political spectrum, with 32% saying it was the single most pressing issue for the 116th Congress, and 69% adding that it should be one of the top concerns.
Other priorities include student loan debt forgiveness, tuition-free university education, investment in healthcare, and protecting the environment. A large majority, 75% of respondents, support the Green New Deal, a progressive proposal by incoming members of congress which seeks investment in clean-energy jobs and infrastructure across the country meant to transform not just the energy sector, but the entire economy.
They also support a pathway to citizenship for recipients of the DACA program that benefits undocumented immigrants who entered the country illegally as children. Other issues such as trade deals, voting rights, or Russian interference in the elections were much lower on the list of priorities. Only 18% of those surveyed said they support the construction of any type of border wall.
Voto Latino commissioned a series of polls on issues of importance to young Latinx adults (18-35 years of age) – the largest bloc of the Hispanic electorate – in key states with a growing latino population which represents 11% of the electorate.
Of the respondents only 16% said they were not registered to vote, although 30% said they did not cast a ballot. There were 43% registered as Democrats, compared to 23% for independents and 18% Republican.
Voto Latino asked respondents if it mattered to them that voters for the first time elected 100 women, 96 veterans, 36 Latinos, two Muslim Americans and the youngest ever congresswoman, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. While 55% said they expected change for the better, only 29% said they expected no change with half of the latter still expressing optimism about the future.
Just 14% expected change for the worse from the new Congress.
Young latinos tend to be more optimistic than black or white voters, according to other polling, Kumar noted. “Their parents are often first generation and tell them (their children) that they live in a great country and they have more opportunity,” she said.
What most stood out, she said, was the 94% of respondents who said they voted and would do so again. “They want to continue being engaged and so it’s essential that we continue to communicate with them,” she said, noting with alarm that only 49% said they has received a message from a political party or organization since the election.
She said the polling had begun to provide a glimpse of “a new young latino voter” many of whom were “self-organizing.” Polling also revealed a generational shift was creating more independent-minded Latinx voters who increasingly talk politics with their friends rather than their family.
For the first time, the latino electoral participation in the 2018 midterm election - about 16 million voters (11% of all voters) - matched their presidential levels in 2016, making a decisive contribution to the overall result in some districts, said Kumar. “People keep asking when will the Latino giant start to awaken. It’s happening. It’s no longer just stirring,” she said.
With 60% of the Latino population under 33, the mean age of Latino voters is 19, compared with the mean age of white voters which is 54 years of age. That means roughly one million new Latinos will come of voting age every year for the next decade.
The poll surveyed 1,014 residents of Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Wisconsin ages 35 and younger who identified as Hispanic, Latinx, or from a Spanish-speaking background. It was conducted online between December 28 and January 2.
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