Latino/a voters’ main concerns are of an economic nature such as education and health care, but the high importance placed on issues like terrorism and immigration suggests that Latino/as are also concerned about cultural changes in the country. I argue that these worries are the roots of the growing dissatisfaction with the country among Latino/a voters.
The most recent National Survey of Latinos conducted by the Pew Research Center finds that a majority (57 percent) of Latino voters are dissatisfied with the way things are going in the country. Four years ago, half of Latino voters said the same, which was drastically lower than the 70 percent who claimed they were unhappy about the direction of the country in 2008. Latinos are not alone in expressing dissatisfaction for the country’s direction. Gallup has tracked for years the “mood of the country” and finds that the last time a majority of Americans expressed satisfaction with the direction of the country was in January of 2004, when 55 percent of Americans said they were satisfied with the country’s direction.
In the case of Latino voters, it seems likely that their growing dissatisfaction with the country is related to their treatment in the country. The Pew survey also asked Latino voters about the importance of different issues to their vote this year. The top three issues for Latinos in the seven-item list are education (83 percent), the economy (80 percent), and health care (78 percent). No surprises here, since these issues loom large not just among Latino voters, but most Americans.
The next group of issues are bundled close enough to each other that Latinos’ concerns about these issues may very well be related. About seven in ten Latino voters say that terrorism (73 percent), immigration (70 percent), and the treatment of Hispanics (69 percent) are also very important to their vote this year.
Terrorism and immigration have been major subjects in the news this year. Some of the coverage is related to attacks at home and abroad by ISIS sympathizers. Other coverage is related to the debate about welcoming Syrian refugees. But to many Latino voters, terrorism also includes the increasingly frequent hate attacks carried out by domestic terrorists. White supremacists have been emboldened in recent years out of fear of demographic decline and Latinos, as the largest and fast-growing ethnic minority, have been one of the main targets of their ire. The rise of this kind of domestic terrorism and intimidation has many Latinos questioning their place in America. It is an indescribable feeling of betrayal for a community that tends to hold positive opinions about their country.
Latino/a voters have come to fear for their safety in a society where larger segments of the racial majority have become increasingly hostile. Unfortunately, that threat has yet to garner even a passing mention as politicians work ever-harder to superficially cater to their interpretation of Latino/a interests. Those political leaders, whose concerns about terrorism are framed in terms of outsiders coming to attack us, should consider paying attention to the domestic forces threatening millions of their fellow Americans.