Socialism ‘propaganda’ cost Democrats Latino votes in 2020 as concern persists

Some 4 in 10 Latinos who voted in 2020 are concerned about Democrats embracing socialism, a Democratic polling firm reported Tuesday.

In a new report that's a post-mortem on Latinos' 2020 voting, Equis Labs stated that Hispanics' concern about socialism has worked "to create space for defection” of voters.

It also has allowed Republicans to move in on Democrats in areas where Democrats have usually done well with Latinos by promoting the party as the better for workers seeking to achieve the American Dream.

Although the socialism concern is more prominent in Florida, it is not confined there, Equis research showed.

As would be expected, Latino 2020 Trump voters were more likely to say they were concerned — 71 percent — about Democrats embracing socialism or leftist policies.

More jarring for Democrats is that 30 percent of Latinos who voted for Biden in 2020 also expressed such concern.

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Stephanie Valencia, co-founder and president of Equis Labs, tied the socialism concern or fear to the near absence of contrary messaging on social media apps such as What’s App and YouTube, where many Latinos get political news.

In its report Equis called the GOP’s messaging on socialism propaganda that is sometimes reduced to disinformation.

“This uncontested propaganda with these closed media ecosystems are feeding this modern red panic, and there is a weaponization of the American Dream,” Valencia said.

She said the GOP is peddling socialism as the opposite of the American Dream and something that will destroy the dream, creating fear around the socialism label.

“It’s an attack that has been amplified and largely gone uncontested over the last several years,” she said.

Equis found that those most open to the messaging are third- and fourth-generation Latinos who are getting news from Fox News or through social media platforms such as Whats App and YouTube, Valencia said.

Fear of Democratic embrace of socialist or leftist ideas was highest among U.S. born Cubans followed by mainland born Puerto Ricans, at 57 percent. Latin Americans who are not of Cuban descent or Puerto Rican were equally concerned about socialism in the Democratic Party and fascism in the GOP.

The fear increases in subsequent generations of U.S. Latinos, growing from a concern among 45 percent of immigrant Latinos to 59 percent of fourth-generation Latinos, according to the survey.

They also tended to be invested in the idea that hard work leads to social mobility.

Many Latinos still vote for Democrats. Among Republican Latinos who voted in 2020 there is a similar share who worry about their party’s embrace of fascist policies.

The survey found that Latinos had varying ideas about what socialism is.

Among Latinos who are third-generation Americans — children of children of immigrants — the most common concern about socialism was that “people will become lazy and dependent on government.”

First- and second-generation Americans more commonly mentioned that “we will become a poor country like Cuba and Venezuela” and “the government will tell us what we can say or do."

Jaime Flórez, a spokesman for the Republican Party, said giving free things to people who broke the law by coming to the U.S. illegally are signs of socialism creeping into the country.

He cited reported financial settlements with families whose children were taken from their parents at the border by the Trump administration as punishment for crossing the border illegally.

“Those of us who got here legally … we get nothing,” Flórez said.

The Federal Tort Claims Act allows individuals to sue the U.S. for injuries from unlawful conduct of federal officers. Some families have sued. There were reports some families would get $450,000 but President Joe Biden has denied that.

Flórez also said another early sign of a slide to socialism is New York granting noncitizens the right to vote in local elections. It's a way for Democrats to change laws so they stay in power forever, he said.

Other states and municipalities also have allowed noncitizens to vote in local elections, including school board races. Hiroshi Motomura, a University of California, Los Angeles, law professor, told NPR that noncitizens have been allowed to vote in local elections since around the founding of the U.S.

Calling GOP warnings of socialism in U.S. propaganda is Democrats way to impose censorship, Flórez said.

“Many people don’t see it. We see it because we have lived through" similar things in Latin America, said Flórez, originally from Colombia. "They cannot hide those things from us.”

Republicans have always won a share of Hispanic voters, as high as the 40 percentile range in some elections. In Florida, Cubans have been consistent Republican voters.

But Trump’s expansion of that vote was seen as surprising to some because of his track record on Latinos and immigrants, from calling Mexican immigrants "rapists" during his candidacy to creating a policy as president to separate children from their parents at the border.

Latinos enjoyed low unemployment before Covid hit. Trump promoted that in 2020, but unemployment already was on a downward slope before he took office.

Latinos unemployment jumped to 19 percent in April 2020 as Trump grappled with uncontrolled Covid cases, hospitalizations and deaths. That fell to 4.6 percent in November.

Trump’s $600 stimulus check, rapid vaccine development and reopening of the economy had wider support among Hispanics who voted in 2020 than building the wall on the border and separating families, Equis found.

The debate over whether to prioritize the economy or public health in the middle of Covid for some became a debate about the value of hard work and the American Dream, Equis stated in its report. It also “created a permission structure for formerly hesitant Latinos to embrace Trump’s candidacy.”

Other findings in the research:

  • Latinos' support for Trump did not increase after the murder of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer and amid calls to defund police. It was rising well before Floyd's murder and flattened after protests.

  • In south Texas, immigration and border security was more polarizing among Latinos in border counties than in the state's metro areas. It was an issue that moved Latino independents in Texas more on vote choice, many choosing Trump.

  • Miami Latin Americans — not of Cuban descent or Puerto Rican — shifted more than Cubans from Democrats to Trump. Their concern about socialism was a strong predictor of a Trump vote. Consuming news from Spanish-language radio was a predictor of concerns about socialism for South Florida Latin Americans.

  • In the end, 50 percent of Latino voters still sat out the election.

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