Is social conservatism the GOP’s secret weapon among Latinos?
May 25, 2012
Multiple polls show Mitt Romney trailing Barack Obama among Latinos by margins that match or exceed John McCain’s deficits among this group in 2008 (36 points). Some GOP strategists assert, however, that Latinos’ social conservatism provides a way to whittle down that lead in the months ahead.
By connecting that social conservatism to candidate Romney, indisputably more conservative on cultural/moral issues than Obama — as highlighted by Obama’s recent expression of support for same-sex marriage — they will win over many Latino voters who are currently supporting Obama. At least that’s the theory.
There’s just one problem with the theory. It’s not true. Hispanics are not nearly as conservative as these strategists assume on social issues, nor are they very likely to cast their vote on the basis of these issues. Let’s start with the level of social conservatism among Latinos.
It is true that Hispanics are relatively conservative on the specific issue of abortion. But in a 2009 survey for the Center for American Progress, Latinos actually had the highest average score of all racial groups on a 10-item progressive cultural index. And on the hot-button issue of gay marriage, surveys have repeatedly shown that Latinos are no more conservative on this issue than whites are. Indeed, in a recent NBC/Wall Street Journal poll, more Latinos (55 percent) said they supported marriage equality than did whites (48 percent).
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