A cardinal rule of electoral politics is that once you’ve locked up your base, you focus your attention not on your opponent’s base but on swing voters. The Public Religion Research Institute’s new survey of Hispanics finds 50 percent affiliated with the Democrats, as against 15 percent with the Republicans. Including leaners, it’s 63 percent to 24 percent. The message, then, is that Hispanics really aren’t worth Republicans’ attention.
In a word, Hispanics have ceased to be swing voters. They were the only Democratic constituency among whom President Obama increased his share of the vote in 2012, and they haven’t changed their tune.
But what about the burgeoning population of Hispanic evangelicals, much trumpeted by the likes of the Rev. Samuel Rodriquez? Unlike other Hispanics, who split evenly on abortion and strongly favor same-sex marriage, only 26 percent of them support abortion rights and only 21 percent, SSM. Surely they provide Republicans with something to hope for?
Not really. It’s true that Hispanic evangelicals are more likely to vote Republican than Hispanic Catholics, Mainline Protestants, and Nones. For the latter, the gaps between Democrats (plus leaners) and Republicans (plus leaners) are, respectively, 45 points (68-23), 42 points (61-19), and 47 points (65-18). The gap for evangelicals is just six points — 49 percent to 43 percent in the Democrats’ favor. (These figures, not published in the PRRI report, were kindly provided to me by one of its authors, Juhem Navarro-Rivera.)
OK, but doesn’t that make Hispanic evangelicals a swing group worthy of GOP attention? Not so much. The trouble is that there aren’t that many of them: only 13 percent of the total. That represents a jump of six points from the childhood religious affiliation of all Hispanics, but still just two percent of the American population. Another cardinal rule of electoral politics is that you don’t waste your time on small populations. (It’s worth noting that the drift of Hispanics into the evangelical camp has been more than matched by their drift into the None camp.)
I’m thinking that these figures come as no surprise to the smart guys in the GOP. Which is why comprehensive immigration reform is going nowhere in the House of Representatives.