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Independents outnumber Republicans among California's Latino voters

by Damon Eris, published

Independent and Latino voters are among the fastest growing segments of California’s electorate.  A new poll provides a window into the Independent Latino vote and reveals that Independents now outnumber Republicans among the Latino voting class. 

Voters who decline to state an affiliation with any political party are among the fastest growing segments of California’s electorate.  In 1998, only 14% of California voters chose political independence over party affiliation.  By 2010, that number increased to 20%, while identification with the Democratic and Republican parties fell.  As the Secretary of State’s office reported last week, the number of registered voters who decline to state a party affiliation is at an all-time high. 

     “A new all-time high percentage of California voters, 20.4 percent, have no party preference . . . The previous record for the proportion of unaffiliated voters was 20.25 percent of all registered voters, reported in October 2010,” announced a press release (.pdf) from Debra Bowen.  

According to the corresponding Report of Registration, 44% of California voters are Democrats and just under 31% are Republicans.

If current trends continue, it is only a matter of time before Independents overtake Republicans in the Golden State.   A projection published earlier this month in the Orange County Register suggested that Independents could outnumber Republicans statewide by 2022.  Significantly, among Latino voters, they already do.  This is just one finding from a new survey of likely Latino voters published by Republican consultant Bob Moore and pollster Marty Wilson.  The survey was intended to assess ways by which the GOP could gain a larger share of the Latino vote; however, since the report breaks down its findings by partisan affiliation, it also provides a good look at the views of Independent Latinos. 

According to the survey, Independents and third party supporters already outnumber Republicans among California’s Latino voters.  61% of respondents to the survey stated that they are Democrats, compared with 21% who identified themselves as decline-to-state voters or third party supporters, and just 18% who said they are Republican.  This is a significant finding compared with polling from late last year.  A Public Policy Institute of California survey from September 2010 found that 65% of likely Latino voters identified themselves as Democrats, 18% as Republican, and 17% as Independent or other.  Comparing the two surveys, it would appear that Latinos disaffected with the Democratic party have chosen to register as Independents rather than Republicans. 

The three biggest complaints or concerns about the Democratic party for Latino voters, according to the Moore and Wilson survey, were wasteful spending, poor leadership and an inability to follow through on promises.  But California Latinos favor Democrats over Republicans by wide margins.  62% of those surveyed stated they have a favorable view of the Democratic Party, compared with only 26% who have a favorable view of the GOP.  Interestingly, though the Moore and Wilson survey found that there is a greater percentage of Democrats among California’s Latino voters than in the state at large (61% and 44% respectively), it also found that Latino voters are not as liberal as voters.  

     “Latino voters are more conservative than Democrats or DTS voters.  Fully a third of all California Latinos are conservative, while only one-in-seven Democrats and one-in-four DTS voters are conservative,” write Moore and Wilson.

Among all Latino voters, opinion is remarkably consistent across partisan lines on the few issues considered in the survey.  66% of all Latino voters support immigration reform, including 63% of Republicans, 66% of Democrats and 67% of Independents.  A large majority of Latinos also agree that people who have entered the United States illegally should be given a pathway to citizenship, including 51% of Republicans, 72% of Democrats and 65% of DTS and third party supporters.  Similarly, a majority of Latino voters of all partisan persuasions stated they that would consider voting for a Republican Party candidate with whom they disagreed on immigration if they agreed with that candidate’s views on education or the economy, national security, environmental issues, and so on.  However, 32% of those polled stated that they would “never vote for a Republican” including 31% of Independents, 39% of Democrats, and, surprisingly, 11% of Republicans!

Decline-to-state voters are the fastest growing segment of California’s electorate, and Latinos are the fastest growing demographic in the state.  If Latinos represent 21% of the state electorate, as is widely reported in the mainstream media, and 21% of Latino voters are third party supporters or Independents, then the third party and Independent Latino vote accounts for about 4.4% of the electorate as a whole, which is more than 750,000 voters.  This is more than enough to swing a close statewide election.