Hispanic voters in Georgia appear to be in the mood for a course correction, according to an Atlanta Journal-Constitution/Georgia News Collaborative poll released on Wednesday, two days into the start of in-person early voting.
Just 6% of respondents said they think the country is headed in the right direction; and a majority also disapproves of Joe Biden’s job performance.
In Georgia, the views of the Hispanic community seem to be carrying more significance than ever before, with Republicans joining Democrats this election cycle in seriously investing in Latino voter outreach. Though Latino registered voters make up a small share of the overall electorate, their numbers have grown rapidly, and could prove instrumental in determining the result of tightly contested statewide races.
The poll of 309 likely voters – all of whom self-identified as Hispanic or Latino – was conducted Oct.11-Oct. 12 by UGA’s School of Policy and International Affairs. It was commissioned by the Georgia News Collaborative, a consortium of Georgia news organizations committed to strengthening local news, and has a margin of error of 5.6 percentage points.
Echoing the concerns of the overall Georgia electorate, Hispanic voters indicated the economy is a dominant source of worry as they prepare to head to the polls.
Nearly 64% of Latino voters said high prices have had a “significant, negative impact” on their daily lives – compared to 54% of overall Georgia voters. An additional 28% of Latino voters said inflation had a “noticeable” effect, and just 1% said it had no real impact.
Georgia Republicans have centered their economic message of fiscal conservatism and business-friendly policies in their bid to unlock further gains with Latinos in 2022. That may pay off, with 79% of poll respondents viewing the cost of living as “extremely” or “very” important in deciding their vote.
Elizabeth Gomez, a 34-year-old realtor in Alpharetta, says she has personally seen how rising interest rates – the Federal Reserve’s biggest tool in the battle against inflation – is locking families out of the housing market. For her, the economy is “definitely the number one issue” this election cycle.
“The cost of living is ridiculous and middle-class America just can’t really sustain this for very much longer,” she said, adding that she’s had to cut back on shopping and is eating out less.
Housing costs are an important component of rising inflation. They’re also a source of significant pain among Georgia Hispanic voters, with 61% of those who participated in the poll indicating that a lack of affordable housing is a problem in their local communities.
Other issues on Latino voters’ mind
Lana Goitia-Paz, a liberal-leaning voter based in Monroe, tweaked her behavior and sought to minimize her time on the road when gas prices peaked over the summer, but she says other issues carry more weight.
“For me personally, definitely the biggest issue is voting rights and protecting the right to vote. I think since the last election in 2020, we had a lot of candidates who have been sort of anti-democracy.”
“And also reproductive rights and reproductive justice,” she said. “Candidates who support women’s access to contraceptives and abortion, that’s also very important to me as well.”
In Wednesday’s poll of likely Hispanic voters, 56% of respondents said they oppose the 2019 law that restricts most abortions on Georgia as soon as a doctor can detect a fetal heartbeat, less than the 61% of overall Georgia voters who expressed opposition to the bill. Most Hispanic voters (54%) also indicated they were more likely to support candidates who pledge to protect abortion rights.
Less than a quarter of respondents said they’re more likely to vote for those who wants to restrict abortion access, while about 20% indicated it makes no difference.
A slim majority of likely Latino voters – 52.6% – opposed recently passed legislation from Georgia Republicans that allows gun owners to carry concealed weapons without a permit. There was more opposition in the poll of general Georgia voters: 62%.
Hispanic voters’ views seem to be more evenly split on immigration: 47.8% of respondents said they supporting ending the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program – which protects children brought to the U.S. illegally from deportation – while 48.3% said they opposed doing away with it. The issue also split respondents to the general electorate poll.
Eric Salgado, from Gainesville, said that DACA recipients “have checked enough boxes in my mind [and] belong to stay here” – a view that aligns him with Democrats’ stance on the issue.
Goitia-Paz would like to see lawmakers expand the program and go further by laying out a path to citizenship, “not just to children who came here without documentation, but also to adults.”
Gomez is more drawn to Republicans’ immigration message.
“People think that we [Latinos] want open borders for everybody, and that is very far from the truth,” she said. “I want a safe border.”
Trey Hood, the University of Georgia political scientist who conducted the English-only survey, said the poll is “far from perfect” but rather a “first stab at trying to find out about what [Latinos] think … We don’t know a lot about Hispanic voters in Georgia. There’s a dearth of information.”
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