How Did Latino-Concentrated Districts Vote in 2022?
- Latino voters are centrally positioned in competitive House districts throughout the country. In 2022, there were 36 seats decided by five points or less, and Latino voters made up at least 15% of the voting age population in 18 of those districts, double the number of swing districts from 2020.
- In districts where Latinos comprised a larger share of the voting age population, turnout in the midterms lagged, but the lag was not geographically uniform.
- There were notable gaps of turnout in Latino-majority districts in Arizona, California, New York, and Texas relative to the rest of the state. Yet, Nevada, New Mexico, and Florida’s Latino-majority districts all had substantial turnout that nearly matched the rest of each states’ districts.
- New Mexico in particular saw an enormous spike in turnout relative to the previous midterms—119% of 2018 turnout statewide—and NM-02 alone had the highest turnout of any majority Latino district in the country relative to 2018.
- Arizona’s heavily concentrated Latino congressional districts saw the least year-to-year vote swings of any Latino-concentrated state in the country.
The story of Latino voters in 2022 is complex, showing some glimmers of success for Democrats in Arizona, Nevada, and New Mexico but glaring warning signs throughout the rest of the country. The midterms show that a sizeable share of the Latino electorate throughout the country remains on the fence about the priorities of both parties, and it is cause to consider that Latino voters are not a permanent Democratic constituency but a crucial swing group that requires persuasion.
Democratic support among Latinos eroded between 2016 and 2020, as Donald Trump managed to shift Latino voters eight points to the right nationwide—in total, Trump garnered 37% support to Joe Biden’s 63%. This shift helped Trump triumph in Florida and South Texas, and it moved small yet significant margins rightward to nearly deliver Nevada and Arizona to Republicans as well. And Latino voters are not only imperative to winning in the presidential battleground states—the 2022 midterm election showed that Latino voters are centrally positioned in competitive House districts throughout the country as well.
This analysis focuses on examining the most densely concentrated states where Latino voters reside and electoral swings from both 2018 to 2022 and 2020 to 2022 to help identify whether Latino-majority districts continued to move further right after 2020. This research is predicated on the usual caveat that midterm election results can only tell us so much—a midterm electorate is ideologically varied from a presidential electorate—but it is the best evidence we have of how these political tides are shifting ahead of 2024.
Latino Voters in Competitive Congressional Districts
Following a tumultuous redistricting process, the national number of competitive districts—House seats decided by five points or less in the 2020 presidential vote—was reduced from 51 to 34. Nine of these districts have Latino voting age populations (VAP) of at least 15%—enough to swing the most competitive races and make a big difference in races that are won and lost on the margins.
In 2022, there were 36 seats decided by five points or less, and Latino voters made up at least 15% of the voting age population in 18 of those districts, double the number of swing districts compared to 2020. Party control of these districts is nearly evenly split, as eight of the seats are currently held by Republicans and ten are held by Democrats. These heavily concentrated Latino districts will no doubt be a determining factor in who holds power in the House of Representatives come 2025.
High Concentration Latino Vote States
In nearly every state with a high concentration of Latino voters, apart from Nevada and New Mexico, Latino-concentrated districts saw significantly lower turnout relative to the rest of the state in down-ballot House races. Essentially, in districts where Latinos comprised a larger share of the voting age population, turnout lagged. This decline was particularly stark when examining the 2022 vote as a percentage of the 2020 vote. And, aside from Arizona, there were notable rightward swings from 2018 and 2020 to 2022 in both Latino-majority districts and Latino-influence districts—those districts that have greater than a 30% Latino voting age population.
When examining 2022 turnout as a percentage of 2018 turnout, midterm electorate to midterm electorate, there were still notable gaps in Latino-majority district turnout in Arizona, California, New York, and Texas relative to the remainder of those states’ districts, while Nevada, New Mexico and Florida all had substantial turnout that nearly matched the rest of each states’ districts. New Mexico in particular saw an enormous spike in turnout relative to the previous midterms—119% of 2018 turnout statewide and the largest of any high concentration Latino state, which we dive into later. Lower turnout might have been most decisive in the top two competitive districts of California, CA-22 and CA-13, where higher Latino turnout and persuasion could have made a significant difference in both outcomes.
As Carlos Odio from Equis Research has noted, Democrats largely held stable support levels with Latino voters in Maricopa County’s most concentrated Latino precincts, with small improvements for Senator Mark Kelly over President Biden’s 2020 performance and a minor loss in support from Katie Hobbs and the 2022 House vote in these precincts.
Our analysis affirms those Arizona findings with Democratic performances in the House. Among the two Latino-majority districts in Arizona, there was a very marginal 1.7-point swing to the right from 2020 to 2022 down-ballot House races. The remainder of the state’s House races, where there was a Democrat and a Republican running, saw a 1.3-point aggregated swing to the right; however, turnout, relative to 2020, was 13 points lower across the two Latino-majority districts than the rest of the state. And from 2018 to 2022, there was a 5.8-point rightward swing in the Latino-majority districts’ vote, 3.2 points further right compared to the rest of the state.
Should this be a concern for Arizona Democrats? Yes and no. Despite the turnout gap, Arizona’s heavily concentrated Latino congressional districts saw the least year-to-year swings of any Latino-concentrated state in the country. And even though Democrats had lower turnout in the highest Latino-concentrated congressional districts, they still managed to win in competitive up-ticket races for senate and governor, which means that this lowered turnout did not cost them statewide. But Democrats did in fact lose the most competitive Latino-concentrated district in AZ-06, with a 21% Latino VAP, which elected Arizona’s first Republican Latino to Congress in Juan Ciscomani by a 1.5-point margin (just over 5,000 votes). AZ-06 tied for having the highest turnout of any congressional district in the state relative to 2020 and it only swung 1.6-points right from 2020. When factoring in that Hispanic communities were cut from the new AZ-06 in redistricting and moved to the safe Democratic AZ-07—and that Democrats gave up on this district—it makes it all the more remarkable that the race was even this close.
Still, it raises a question as to whether Arizona Democrats not named Mark Kelly have a brand and persuasion problem. Congressman Ruben Gallego did see a leftward swing in his year-to-year vote, but his heavily Democratic district saw the lowest turnout of any race in the state where a Democrat and a Republican were running. Democrats running at the top of the ticket in Arizona, like Mark Kelly, thus far have shown that they can keep the new status quo in their support with Latino voters when they’re persuaded to show up at the polls.
In California’s 14 Latino-majority congressional districts, where a Democrat and a Republican both made the November ballot in 2022, there was a 10.8-point aggregated swing to the right from 2020 to 2022, and a 7.1-point swing from 2018 to 2022. Even when adding in congressional districts where Latino voters made up at least 30% of the voting age population, which we classify as Latino-influence districts, there was still a 10.9-point swing to the right from 2020 and a 4.8-point swing to the right from 2018, while the remainder of the state actually saw a marginal 0.3-point leftward swing from 2018. In the Latino-majority districts, turnout relative to 2020 lagged behind the rest of the state by 16 points, and turnout relative to 2018 lagged by 10 points.
California’s 22nd congressional district, comprising a 69% Latino voting age population, saw some of the highest advertising spending of any competitive congressional district in the country, yet it only had a 55% turnout relative to 2020—13 points lower than CA-47, Katie Porter’s largely white affluent district that also saw a significant amount of spending. CA-22 saw a rightward swing of 15.9 points from the 2020 presidential to 2022, while CA-47 saw a 7.7-point rightward swing.
Of the 36 competitive congressional districts decided by five points or less in 2022, five came from California and had highly concentrated Latino populations—and four of those five now have Republican incumbents. In short, California Democrats have a major challenge on their hands to address their shortcomings with Latino voters in these competitive races. Moving into a presidential cycle won’t solve those problems alone and failing to reckon with this reality will make it increasingly difficult to flip those competitive California districts. The stakes are high, as persuading Latino voters in these districts will be key to Democrats flipping the House in 2024.
In Florida’s four Latino-majority congressional districts, there was a 17.5-point swing to the right from 2020 to 2022—five points larger than the rest of the state. These Latino-majority districts had an even sharper rightward swing from 2018 to 2022. Turnout relative to 2020 in the Latino-majority congressional districts was eight-points lower than the rest of the state, yet turnout relative to 2018 kept pace with the race of the state. However, analysis from MCIMAPS has shown that the statewide Hispanic turnout gap was quite stark, as Latino voters cast ballots at a nearly 22% lower rate than white voters did in 2022—and Democratic Hispanic voters lagged Republican Hispanic voters by nearly 20 points in turnout. This can in part be explained by the lack of investment by the Democratic Party in Florida statewide races this year. Florida is a warning of what happens when there is complete abdication by Democrats to invest in Latino voters.
There remain very few competitive districts left in Florida post-redistricting—only two were decided by less than five points in 2020, and in 2022 there was just a single Florida district decided by under five points—drawn as a safe Democratic district, it swung eight-points right from 2020. Democrats have an overwhelming challenge to rebuild the party’s infrastructure—this remains the only way for them to regain a foothold in the state with Latino voters–but they may not find many immediate down-ballot flippable districts for such investments.
Nevada’s results among Latino voters were similar to those in Arizona, according to analysis from Equis Research. This research showed that support for Democratic Senator Catherine Cortez Masto in Clark County’s heavily concentrated Latino precincts remained stable from the 2020 presidential to 2022. However, relative to 2018, support for Cortez Masto dropped among Latino voters, along with turnout in these precincts, and it led to a Clark County Hispanic electorate that was four percent more Republican than in 2018, according to modeling from TargetSmart. The importance of Clark County is paramount, as three congressional districts were drawn to capture favorable Democratic votes from the county and give each of those three Democratic incumbents a chance at eking out victories—and the strategy succeeded. House Democrats held the line and these three districts cumulatively swung only three points right from 2020 and eight points right from 2018. This is largely a testament to high-quality incumbents and a significant amount of investment to mobilize and persuade voters throughout the state, particularly Latino voters. Holding these districts will be central to Democrats taking back the House in 2024.
And despite marginally lower turnout in the heavily concentrated Latino congressional districts, Senator Cortez Masto eked out her Senate race by 8,000 votes, while Democratic Governor Steve Sisolak lost his re-election bid by 16,000 votes—lower Latino support than Cortez Masto, along with lower Latino turnout, might have made the difference in this race.
One of the few exceptions where there were not significant differences between a Latino-majority district’s turnout compared to the rest of the state, and where there was a substantial increase in turnout relative to 2018, was in New Mexico, specifically in New Mexico’s second congressional district. NM-02 remains one of the underrated stories of the 2022 election cycle. Gabe Vasquez managed to flip a district for Democrats by 1,300 votes in a southern border district where Latino voters make up 56% of the voting age population. New Mexico saw the largest increase of turnout relative to 2018 of any of the high-density Latino vote states, and NM-02 alone had the largest turnout of any majority Latino district in the country, relative to 2018. However, cycle-to-cycle vote swings were not quite as stable as they were in Arizona’s Latino-majority districts.
Despite the higher turnout, NM-02 still swung 5.3 points to the right from 2020 to 2022, while the two remaining New Mexico districts swung marginally left by 0.6 points (all three districts cumulatively swung 0.7 points right). Vasquez ran a campaign that overcame a barrage of GOP attacks and was defined on supporting working-class families, even those in the oil and gas industry, he framed his opponent as culturally extreme, touted his support for law enforcement funding and border security, the former in an ad with a law enforcement validator, and leaned into his family’s Latinidad heritage and his upbringing at the border. NM-02 is an example of what can happen when Democrats do enough to be disciplined on message to persuade and mobilize Latino voters in an ultra-competitive race.
Interestingly, NY-15 is the only Latino-majority district in New York where a Republican and Democrat ran in 2022, and it had a nearly 28-point lower turnout relative to the 2020 vote compared to the rest of the state and nearly 40-point lower turnout relative to the 2018 vote. Among the Latino-influence districts, there was still a 20 point lag in turnout compared to the rest of the state relative to 2020, and nearly a 30 point lag relative to 2018. It’s important to note that these are deep blue congressional districts that are not in any danger of flipping. And while these Latino-influence districts did swing 6.4 points to the right from 2020, this was a five-point smaller swing than the rest of the state’s congressional districts.
When we look at the most competitive New York congressional districts, there are three that have significant Latino populations and were decided by less than five-points in 2022—two of which, NY-04 and NY-17, flipped for Republicans and swung significantly right, riding on the coattails of Republican nominee Lee Zeldin in the gubernatorial race. Both of these races saw turnout that exceeded the statewide average, but Latino and Black turnout lagged in both districts, according to TargetSmart modeling. Higher Latino turnout likely would have made the difference in NY-17, while Latino turnout at 2018 levels in NY-04 alone would almost certainly not have been enough for Democrats to win that race, even if all of those votes broke for Democrats. Latino voters remain a crucial part of the Democratic coalition in each of these New York districts, but in races like NY-04, Latinos will not necessarily be the most decisive factor even when they are persuaded to show up.
For all of the major swings in South Texas in 2020, there was surprisingly weak movement in Texas’s highest-concentrated Latino districts from the presidential to the midterms. Among Texas’s nine Latino-majority districts, there was only a 3.2-point swing to the right from 2020 to 2022—largely aided by Blue Dog Democratic congressman Henry Cuellar’s overperformance, as his district saw a 6.3-point swing towards Democrats from 2020 to 2022. Particularly notable is that Cuellar outperformed Beto O’Rourke’s margins in the gubernatorial race, outrunning Beto between 17 points and up to 40 points in the Hispanic border counties.
In the congressional districts with greater than 30% Latino voting age population, there still was only a 3.8-point swing to the right, while the rest of the state’s districts saw a more significant 7.9-point swing to the right. The swings from 2018 to 2022 were more severe, and more closely reflect the 2016 to 2020 vote shift, as Latino-majority districts swung 14 points to the right, compared to a nine-point shift across the rest of the state.
Turnout in the Latino-majority districts did in fact remain seven points lower than the rest of the state, relative to 2018 and 2020. This lower turnout failed to work in Republican’s favor, as the GOP likely hoped to turn out more of the lower propensity Latino voters who swung towards Trump in 2020—the GOP only managed to gain TX-15 among the Latino-concentrated districts that they had targeted to flip. Despite the ground that Democrats managed to hold in Texas last cycle, the swings from 2018 and 2020 to 2022 remain significant. Holding those Latino district swings to the low single digits between individual cycles may be the best that Democrats can ask for when both parties are actively competing for Texas Latino votes.
While there were marginal rightward shifts in Latino-majority districts across these six states, and turnout lagged in some crucial races, nothing in this data can conclusively predict how Latino voters will break in 2024. But there are lessons for Democrats to learn from notable candidates such as Mark Kelly, Catherine Cortez Masto, and Gabe Vasquez, among others, who excelled with Latino voters in extremely competitive races.
In 2020, Democrats not named Joe Biden had a brand problem down-ballot, as Joe Biden outran House Democrats nationwide. Going into 2024, House Democrats still have a brand problem, and they will continue to have a hurdle to overcome with Latino voters across the country, as a matter of both rhetoric and policy. If Democrats hope to garner the support of Latino voters at pre-2020 levels or even maintain the status quo, they must make the necessary investments to persuade and mobilize the Hispanic community in these Latino-concentrated states and districts—as 2022 has shown what happens when Democrats run robust campaigns with this crucial set of swing voters and when they do not.
2022 two-way House vote for each of the districts was aggregated for Latino-majority districts (greater than 50% Latino VAP), Latino-influence districts (greater than 30%Latino VAP), and the rest of the state’s vote (less than 30%Latino VAP). 2018 and 2020 swing was calculated through the aggregated two-way 2020 presidential vote by congressional district and the 2018 senate/gubernatorial vote by congressional district, as measured by Dave’s Redistricting.