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Even In Texas, Abortion Not Motivating Latino Voters

Poll busts political myth that abortion could swing Latinos To GOP


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Latinos are Catholic, Catholics oppose abortion, and therefore Latinos will vote for pro-life Republicans. Right? Well, no. A new poll from the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health unpacks the political myth that abortion can help Republicans get the Latino vote.

“It’s really a myth that Latino voters hold anti-abortion views,” said Tresa Undem, who conducted the poll among more than 600 Texas Latino voters.

“78 percent of respondents in Texas agree with this statement: ‘A woman has a right to make her own decisions about abortion without politicians interfering,’” Undem said.

Still, the political action committee of Texas Right to Life bought radio ads during primary season attacking Wendy Democrat Wendy Davis for her abortion views. The ads aired in English and Spanish in the Rio Grande Valley. (Spanish ad, English ad.)

The ad’s narrator says Davis thinks “terminating babies” is okay, and she’s “wrong on life” and therefore “wrong for Texas.”

But that ad is wrong when it comes to wooing Latino voters, according to Ana Rodriguez DeFrates the Institute’s Texas Latina Advocacy Network (TX LAN) State Policy and Advocacy Director.

“Our community believes abortion should be safe, legal, covered by insurance and above all, a woman’s own decision,” DeFrates said.

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The Institute is concerned about the ongoing myth that Latinos are pro-life and will vote that way. DeFrates added that the myth means Latinas are being left out of organizing, activism and news stories about the abortion issue.

Sylvia Manzano, a Houston-based political analyst with the firm Latino Decisions, said the poll results agree with previous research and her firm’s own work. Manzano was not involved in the Institute’s new poll. 

Republicans are mistaken if they think Latinos will just wake up one day and vote Republican because of abortion, Manzano said.

“Latino voters are not unsophisticated,” she explained. “We know which party is the pro-life party and which one is the pro-choice party. So the reason that Republicans are not doing well with Latinos is not because of abortion.”

Latino voters care much more about other things, principally the economy, immigration and education, and Republicans don’t resonate with them on those issues, Manzano said.

“If abortion was the deciding issue for Latinos…well, then they would be voting in pretty large margins for Republicans, and that’s not happening,” she said.

Yes, more than half of Latinos are Catholic, but Manzano says people don’t always vote their religion, or not in the ways one might always expect.

She said Latinos are more motivated by Catholic views on social justice than abortion.

For example, this past summer Latinos living in communities in the Rio Grande Valley chose to embrace and assist the migrant children from central America who were arriving at the Texas border.

“That was Catholic Charities who was out there doing that work and you saw a lot of people who lived in that area doing ‘for the least of their brothers.’ That’s a very traditional Hispanic Catholic politics. What it means to be a political Catholic for Latinos could be really different than for non-Latinos.”

The poll did not ask specifically about Texas abortion laws, but it did ask generally about the many laws passed recently in multiple states to regulate abortion.

The poll found half of Latino voters hadn’t even heard of those laws, but when told about them, 58 percent said they didn’t like them.