Latino voters say inflation and gun violence are top concerns this election year, survey says

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Rising costs for housing, gas and groceries have made longtime Peoria resident Samuel Gamboa make the issue of inflation his top priority for the upcoming November general election.

According to Gamboa, the recent uptick in costs have made running his small business, Murillo and Sons Landscaping in Peoria, that much harder. He said his business has been hit hard, mostly because of gas prices.

"We are still feeling the post-pandemic effect, many of us are already going through a financial crisis … and that has made us value what little we have more," Gamboa said.

According to a survey conducted this summer by UnidosUS and Mi Familia Vota, two national Latino advocacy and civic engagement organizations, the No. 1 issue for Latino voters is inflation.

Other issues include crime and gun violence, employment, health care and, for the first time ever making the top five, abortion, with more than 70% of survey respondents saying it should remain a protected right.

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“This survey shows that our diverse community is aligned on priority issues and wants Congress to produce solutions,” said Héctor Sánchez Barba, executive director and CEO of Mi Familia Vota, during a virtual news conference on Aug. 10, when both organizations released survey findings.

“A majority of Latinos we surveyed across the country plan to vote in the 2022 election, and more than 60% of Latinos in Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia and Pennsylvania say they are 100 percent sure they will vote", Sánchez said.

Economic concerns top survey

For Gamboa, being Latino and voting as a Latino, immigration, security and health care are issues that are always top of mind. But in this upcoming election, what he urgently asks politicians is to put an end to the rise in prices.

It's an issue that has directly impacted not only his family but also his community. He's seen this mostly in a decline of customers.

"We feel like we're up to our necks in water, and no matter how hard we work, it's barely enough to pay our bills. I think it's the first time since the 2008 recession that we've seen ourselves in this situation," he said.

Gustavo Ventura, professor of economics at Arizona State University, said that the inflation rates that the country is currently experiencing have a greater impact on families that earn less than the average American — that includes a majority of Latinos. The costs for utilities, gas, groceries and housing, especially rent, have increased disproportionately, Ventura said, directly hitting the pockets of families with fewer resources.

“This is part of a larger issue, but Hispanics tend to be people with lower-than-average incomes. Latinos tend to have more children than the rest of the population," and larger families make for additional costs, especially when it comes to basic needs like food, Ventura said.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the inflation rate for July 2022 was at 8.5%, whereas during the same month in 2021 it was at 5.4% and in 2020 at 1%.

Despite such a high figure, Ventura predicts the economic situation could improve after the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported no change in the inflation rate from June to July, which would explain the drop in gas and utility prices in recent weeks.

Concerning rise in gun violence

Another issue that topped survey responses was the rise in crime and gun violence seen across the country.

José Guzmán, a Phoenix resident and anti-gun violence activist, is not surprised by this, since it is a problem that he has seen growing steadily in recent years.

“What we are experiencing today I call a murder pandemic,” said Guzmán, founder of the Phoenix-based Parents and Relatives of Victims of Crime, an organization that provides help to Latinos and Spanish-speaking residents who have lost a loved one to gun violence.

“Massacres like the one in Uvalde, or the one at Walmart in Texas (in 2019), are the ones that come to mind because they have a strong impact in the news," Guzmán said. "But people are murdered with firearms every day, it is something that must stop."

According to data from the Gun Violence Archive, a nonprofit that tracks incidents of gun violence across the country from daily police, media, government and commercial sources, at least 2,721 gun deaths have been recorded in Arizona from 2014 to date, including 43 mass shootings. In 2022, at least nine mass shootings have been reported in Arizona.

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Guzmán believes the lack of legislation on gun control is a contributing factor to the rise in gun violence. In recent weeks, the bipartisan Safer Communities Act of 2022 was passed, co-sponsored by Arizona senators Kyrsten Sinema and Mark Kelly.

The law, approved by Congress and signed by President Joe Biden on June 25, expands background checks for those under 21 who buy firearms, and directs $11 billion for mental health services.

“As a citizen and a voter, I demand that (politicians) enact a reform and take the issue of arms sales seriously; that they thoroughly review and give severe punishments; that they give year-long jail sentences so that people think twice before acquiring a firearm," he said.

UnidosUS launches civic engagement campaign

The survey indicates that 60% of Latino voters believe the country is headed down the wrong path.

“Latino voters are not apathetic, they are skeptical. They are sending a wake-up call to both parties, which remain underwater compared to previous spikes in Hispanic support,” said Clarissa Martínez De Castro, vice president of the UnidosUS Latino Vote Initiative. “As the second-largest group of voting-age Americans, with many not yet strongly aligned with either party, Hispanic voters can be a stabilizing force in American politics."

Looking ahead to this year's November elections, UnidosUS and Mi Familia Vota will be running a $15 million civic engagement campaign, seeking to reach voters in eight different states, including Arizona.

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They will focus on registering more than 100,000 voters, hosting candidate forums in several states with high-profile statewide elections and providing voters with information on policy issues and access to voting.

“In order to attract Latino voters, both parties must invest in reaching out to our community as they would to any other valuable electorate," Sánchez of Mi Familia Vota said, adding that "unfortunately, of those surveyed, only 295 and 19%, respectively, say they have been contacted by Democrats or Republicans."

Reach La Voz reporter and editor Javier Arce at javier.arce@lavozarizona.com or on Twitter @javierarce33.

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This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: Latino voters' top issues are rising costs, gun violence, survey says