The Latinx political participation in the United States is relatively low. However, Latinx political participation is higher in their countries of origin. Therefore, why aren’t Latinx becoming politically involved in the U.S.? The truth is that Latinx in their home countries are very politically engaged and informed. In the United States, the media has portrayed Latinos as politically disengaged and less committed to being interested in politics.
One of the reasons most Latinx are not being politically involved in the U.S. is due to their immigration status. Latinx might have a legal residency in the country, however they cannot vote until they have the opportunity to become citizens. On the other hand, those who don’t have a legal residency, have completely vanished from the political scenario. People get more motivated to participate in politics once they are U.S. citizens and acquire the right to vote. Those who do not have the right to vote feel disenfranchised and out of the political conversations, due to their immigration statuses. According to the Pew Research Center, foreign born Latinos tend to be more active in the political scenario in their country of origin because of the representation that they see within their politicians. This includes; same economic background, racial representation, common language and similar social and political ideals. Compared to the U.S. where foreign born Latinos tend to feel insecure and negative about what they occupy in American society. This is due to the fact that Latinos do not see themselves as the traditional Americans, because of the different social, economic and political backgrounds they hold (Lopez, 2018). Life has been more difficult for those who are foreign born, compared to Latinos who were born in the U.S. who have been able to merge into American society and acquire the values or characteristics of the country.
The cost of participation in the electoral process involves Latino voters facing institutional disadvantages when it comes to elections and casting their vote. Latinx eligible voters in the United States are more likely to be misinformed by the media, which includes conspiracy theories through social media, news, radio, and newspapers (Ryan- Mosley, 2020). In addition, some Spanish-speaking citizens are at a disadvantage by not receiving correct information about the elections process in their native language. This generates confusion among Latinos who are not active within the community and politics. In addition, certain neighborhoods are not visited by candidates, there are no organized events near their schools, jobs or organizations near their neighborhood. Because of the minimal efforts made by local governments, Latinos are not sure who the candidates and their proposals are. Therefore, these issues would encourage them not to cast their vote.
The discrimination generates a chain of understanding conflict since local and state candidates do not know what are the needs and problems faced by the Latino population in general because they do not approach the Latino community, so Latinos do not feel visible and supported by candidates. The lack of participation is also due to the discrimination that Latinos face when they go to the voting booths, they are in a position where they are more vulnerable to being asked questions such as: are you a U.S. citizen? Things that are not questioned to a white voter when they are casting their vote or more vulnerable to being falsely accused of fake ID. This breeds resentment and mistrust.
In addition, Latinos feel discouraged by institutional barriers such as voter registration requirements, gerrymandering, and electoral college and the elite who contribute as campaign donors. According to Berman 2017, the crisis of representation, fake news and corruption generate the resentment of power and expose how national governments have been only responsive to specific groups. Therefore, if Latino eligible voters do not cast their vote, then it also affects Latinos who cannot vote, since Latino non-eligible voters feel represented by those who can vote. Social media also seek to divide the Hispanic vote or cancel it completely, exposing social and political problems and political party who supports abortion, LGBTQIA + rights, immigration, thus confronting the Latino community itself and impacting the decision to vote. This is because more than 70% percent of Latinos are Catholic or Christian and consider themselves conservative. This causes Latinos to decide not to go to vote or to not really know what political party they should vote for.
It’s very concerning that foreign born U.S. citizens are not as politically engaged as they were in their countries of origin, this causes the concerns and issues that the Latinx population in the U.S. face are not heard and talked about by the governments. In addition, non-eligible voters who rely on their votes, get the most minimal or no attention at all in the political scenario. Therefore, Latinx don’t get represented in politics. Immigration status, institutional barriers, misinformation and the crisis of representation deeply affect Latinx U.S. citizens. It’s important that government officials start to consider the necessities not only of eligible Latinx voters, but non-eligible voters who end up being the most affected by the Latinx voter disadvantage. The Latino vote it’s significant as it brings new ideas, initiatives and laws. Latino voters need to hold accountable their representatives and expose the problems the Latinx population confronts and demand justice, equity, security or any type of advocacy needed for the population. Candidates on the other side need to attract Latinx voters and start questioning laws and policies that affect or benefit their community directly.
Latinx voting will rise once the governments start including Latinx issues on their agendas and compromise to better support the community, while Latinos hold their representatives accountable during their mandates.
Berman, S. (2017). The Pipe Dream of Undemocratic Liberalism. Journal of Democracy, 28(3), 29–38. https://doi.org/10.1353/jod.2017.0041
Ryan-Mosley, T. (2020, October 13). “It’s been really, really bad”: How Hispanic voters are being targeted by disinformation. MIT Technology Review. https://www.technologyreview.com/2020/10/12/1010061/hispanic-voter-political-targeting-facebook-whatsapp/
Lopez, M., Gonzalez-Barrera, A., & Krogstad, J. (2020, August 18). Latinos now more negative about their place in America. Retrieved November 28, 2021, from https://www.pewresearch.org/hispanic/2018/10/25/latinos-have-become-more-pessimistic-about-their-place-in-america/
Taylor, P., Lopez, M., Martínez, J., & Velasco, G. (2020, August 18). When labels don’t fit: Hispanics and their views of identity. Retrieved November 28, 2021, from https://www.pewresearch.org/hispanic/2012/04/04/when-labels-dont-fit-hispanics-and-their-views-of-identity/