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February 2, 2023

Abortion, gun control were top issues driving young Latinos to vote. Groups want to harness that momentum.

Abortion, gun control and crime were some of the top issues that drove young Latino voters to the polls this year.

A majority of Latino voters under 30 voted for a Democratic candidate on Election Day, boosting Democrats amid highly contested races, but the issues and priorities motivating them to vote varied within the young voting bloc.

A series of analyses from CIRCLE, the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement at Tufts University, which studies young voters, found that 77% of young Latinos who voted in the midterms support gun control and 89% believe abortion should be legal in all or most cases. Out of all young voters, Latinos were the most likely to name crime as the top issue that decided their vote.

Their data also found that Latinas supported Democrats at a higher rate than Latino men (79% vs. 64%).

CIRCLE estimated that 27% of people ages 18 to 29 voted in the midterm election, making it the second-highest youth voter turnout, behind the 2018 midterm election, in almost three decades.

Since Latinos are among the youngest racial and ethnic groups in the country, with a median age of 30, it’s almost impossible to understand Latino voters without recognizing their connection to the nation’s youth vote.

In states such as Arizona, Colorado, Georgia, North Carolina, Nevada and Virginia, Latinos under 30 represent the largest share of the overall Latino electorate in each state, according to Voto Latino, a progressive voter mobilization group.

According to the 2022 Midterm Election Voter Poll, in nine of the 11 battleground states tracked by the poll, Latino voters listed abortion rights as one of the top five issues motivating them to vote.

“Young Latinos disproportionately care about gun rights, they care about abortion access, and that is an issue that we saw motivating them; even when it came to registering to vote,” Maria Teresa Kumar, president of Voto Latino, said Thursday during a call with reporters.

“The average Latina, she’s roughly 32 years old. She is very much in the midst of her reproductive years and, as an American, is disproportionately impacted with these legislations that basically undermine the agency over her body,” Kumar added.

The 2022 Midterm Election Voter Poll found inflation was the top issue motivating Latino voters in 11 battleground states. But the rest of their top priorities varied across states.

In Texas, Latinos were more concerned about mass shootings, which was their second most important issue, followed by gas prices.

Following tragic mass shootings in El Paso and Uvalde, which disproportionately impacted Hispanics, “that clearly is a top issue for Latinos, because we’ve have felt the consequences,” Cristina Tzintzún, president of NextGen America, a progressive advocacy nonprofit and political action committee, told NBC News.

Latino voters in seven other battleground states (Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Colorado and Arizona) listed mass shootings as one of the top five issues motivating them to vote. Latino voters in Florida, Nevada and Wisconsin said crime was a motivating issue.

Other issues top of mind for Latino voters were health care, climate change, affordable housing, border security, immigrant rights and racisms and discrimination, according to the 2022 Midterm Election Voter Poll.

‘Incredible opportunity’

According to Voto Latino, almost 4.1 million Latinos will age into the 2024 presidential election, becoming eligible to vote. About 800,000 will be in Texas and 163,000 in Arizona.

One million Latinos are expected to turn 18 every year at least for the next 15 years, according to the Pew Research Center.

For Kumar, “the big question is, is there going to be an apparatus to register and absorb these individuals into the electoral process?”

“There’s an incredible opportunity for investment” in these new voters, she said.

Tzintzún said that investing in these new potential voters early will pay out beyond the next presidential election.

Nathalie Rayes, president of the progressive organization Latino Victory, which works to boost Latino candidates, said “it’s important that we have young Latinos on the ballot — not only going to the ballot box, but also on the ballot.”

Rayes said young Latino candidates “are engaging the Latino community to come out and vote,” pointing out Florida and California as examples.

In Florida, Maxwell Alejandro Frost, 25, who identifies as Afro Cuban, is the first Generation Z member to be elected to Congress while Robert Garcia, 35, of California, became the first LGBTQ immigrant elected to Congress.

“Campaigns and parties need to reimagine how they reach Latino voters,” Kumar said, especially in those states where “the majority of the vote share is young and may not have a history of voting.”

“You have to reimagine how you contact them, and how you do so often,” she added.

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