What do we know about how Latino and Black voters cast their ballots in the midterms?
Democrats won a majority of Latino and Black voters but by a significantly smaller margin than in 2018.
The “red ripple” that barely carried Republicans to a House majority in last month’s midterms contained a notable rightward shift among voters of color in some parts of the country. As Republicans continue to try to make gains among this diverse group of voters, their success in some states may point the way to a larger shift nationally.
While collectively making up less than 40% of the population, Black, Latino and Asian American communities found themselves at the center of a rightward shift in Georgia, Arizona, Nevada, Florida and New York City. Though Democrats still won these voters at the national level, it was by a significantly smaller margin than in the last midterm elections in 2018, suggesting that Black, Latino and Asian American voters cannot be taken for granted by Democrats and that Republicans may still be able to build on their 2020 gains among voters of color.
Black voters remained one of the Democratic Party’s most reliable constituencies in this midterm election, even as their support for the party decreased by four percentage points, from 90% to 86%, since the last midterm elections in 2018, according to exit polls conducted by the National Election Pool and Edison Research.
Democrats saw a significantly larger loss among Latino voters. In 2022, 60% of Latino voters cast their ballots for Democrats, down from 69% in 2018. At 39%, the share of Latino voters who cast their ballots for the GOP in the 2022 midterms was the largest in two decades, and 10 percentage points more than in 2018. The shift was most dramatic among Latino men — Democrats won Latino men by 29 percentage points in 2018 but by just 8 percentage points in 2022.
But it could be that the demographic most eager to shed their historically blue affiliation for red was Asian Americans, whose support for Democrats dropped precipitously since the last midterms, possibly due to concerns over rising crime and changes to the education system. Nationally, the share of Asian American voters who cast their vote for Democrats fell from 77% in 2018 to 58% in 2022.
It will take time before a clearer picture emerges of the motivation behind these shifts, but exit polls suggest what countless polls over the summer indicated — that inflation and rising crime were top issues for voters.
However, despite the role these particular issues may have played, the Latino shift to the right seems to be part of a larger trend that could have a lasting impact on the future of the Democratic and Republican parties.
In the 2020 presidential election, former President Donald Trump received 8 percentage points more of the Latino vote than he did in 2016, making gains in Latino-majority counties in South Texas and Florida, including Miami-Dade County where he narrowed his losing margin from 30 percentage points in 2016 against Hillary Clinton to 7 percentage points in 2020 against President Joe Biden.
Florida Republicans built on those gains in the 2022 midterms. Gov. Ron DeSantis received 55% of the vote in Miami-Dade County where Latino voters make up almost 60% of the electorate, flipping the county red for the first time in two decades. These numbers were replicated across the state. In 2018, Latino voters favored Democrats by 10 percentage points in Florida. Four years later, Florida Republicans won Latino voters by over 15 percentage points.
Though the red tsunami that slammed into Florida did not spread across the rest of the country, it did crop up among Latino voters in key swing states like Arizona and Nevada.
Despite his anti-immigration rhetoric, the Republican nominee for U.S. Senate in Arizona, Blake Masters, received 10 percentage points more of the Latino vote than did his Republican predecessor in 2018. And the Republican nominees for U.S. Senate and governor in Nevada both narrowed the Democrat’s winning margin among Latino voters by upwards of 10 percentage points compared to 2018.
Republicans had also hoped to build on Trump’s gains among Latino voters in Texas to flip three historically blue majority-Latino districts in the southern part of the state, the 15th, 28th and 34th districts. These hopes were strengthened by the win of Republican Rep. Mayra Flores in a June special election, turning the 34th District red for the first time in a decade. But Republicans were met with disappointment. Though the Latino vote did shift red in some parts of the 34th District, it was not enough to keep Flores from losing to her Democratic opponent who received more financial support from PACs and outspent Flores on advertisements.
While Republicans did come away with a win in the 15th District, Latino voters in the neighboring 28th District actually shifted significantly towards Democrats — in some counties, by dozens of percentage points — securing the reelection of moderate Democrat, Henry Cuellar. And though Republican Gov. Greg Abbott easily beat his Democratic opponent, Beto O’Rourke, he received 4 percentage points less of the Latino vote than he had in 2018.
Despite several factors suggesting that voters would shift decisively towards Republicans in an off-year election — with Democrats in control of both chambers of Congress, and during a time of economic duress — it seems that other issues, particularly abortion, complicated voters’ decisions.
Abortion was the top issue for one-fifth of Black voters and more than one-fourth of Latino voters, with around 90% of those respondents voting Democratic, according to exit polls. Additionally, a majority of Black and Latina women reported that the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade impacted the way they cast their vote in the midterms, according to a post-election KFF/AP VoteCast analysis.
In Georgia, nearly one-third of Black voters said abortion was the most important issue affecting their vote, with 96% of those voting Democratic. But even with abortion being a significant motivating factor, incumbent Democratic U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock and Democratic gubernatorial nominee Stacey Abrams still lost a few percentage points of support among Black voters compared to their previous election bids.
Even a small shift to the right among Black voters could make all the difference in a state like Georgia, where the Senate race is headed for a special election — again — in order for a candidate to receive a simple majority.
Despite Republicans’ mixed results in the 2022 midterm elections, the party’s efforts to reach out to voters of color appear to be showing some fruits. And though the GOP flipped only 21 seats held by Democrats, the group of House candidates fielded by the Republican party in the 2022 midterms was one of the most diverse in its history, including 29 Latino, 26 Black, and six Asian American candidates.