A Look at North Carolina’s Latino Voters (Part 1)

May 22, 2022

Over the last decade, North Carolina’s Latino population has grown by roughly 40% – from 800,000 in 2010 to 1,118,596 in 2020, according to the latest Census data. Latinos are now both the fastest-growing racial/ethnic group in the state. In North Carolina, as around the country as a whole, Latino voters have become a key constituency that will play a major role in our political direction.

New: See Part 2 of these poll results here.

Carolina Forward, in partnership with Enlace Latino NC and the New North Carolina Project, recently commissioned Change Research to conduct an in-depth survey of eligible and likely Latino voters. This represents some of the very first public polling of its kind, and the results are striking.

In Part 1, we are examining results pertaining to North Carolina’s U.S. Senate race, top issues for this community, views on the 2020 election, and general population description of this community.

Note: in these results, we use the preferred term “Latino,” though other terms such as Hispanic/Latinx may equally apply.

Beasley With a Big Lead

Democratic U.S. Senate nominee Cheri Beasley begins her general election campaign with a major lead over the Republican nominee, Ted Budd. By a 17-point margin (43 to 26), Latino voters lean towards Beasley, though nearly a third (31%) remain undecided:

Self-described Independents also lean towards Beasley, but a huge majority (69%) are as yet undecided. This is likely related to the number of respondents who said they'd never heard of the candidate. While Beasley enjoys a +5 net favorability rating overall (total favorable 16%, total unfavorable 11%), 47% said they had never heard of her, and 26% said they were neutral. By contrast, Ted Budd begins the general election campaign with serious unfavorables among Latino voters. His net favorability came in at -14% (total favorable 13%, total unfavorable 27%), with fewer voters (36%) saying they had never heard of him.

President Biden's popularity remains underwater with Latino voters with a -9% rating (total favorable 36%, total unfavorable 45%). Yet Governor Roy Cooper seemingly walks on water. The Governor received a +27% favorability rating (total favorable 48%, total unfavorable 21%). Both parties are unpopular with Latino voters, demonstrating a streak of independence, though the Republican party is six times more unpopular.

Top Issues

Unsurprisingly, inflation rises to the top of what's on Latino voters' minds overall - but not at all equally. Republican Latinos are far more likely to name inflation as the most important issue in the U.S. Senate race, while Democratic ones name healthcare costs and Independents name both, plus immigration. Clear differences also arise between men and women and across age groups.

In a striking alignment of voters with otherwise disparate concerns, COVID comes in dead last on all Latino voters' list of concerns. This may signal a readiness to move on (or perhaps fatigue) from the COVID-driven political cycle of the last 2 years. The only issue with responses as low as COVID was Republican Latinos' enthusiasm for combating climate change.

The Big Lie

Since Donald Trump's resounding defeat in the 2020 election, both Trump and his most hardcore followers have clung to the widely discredited "Big Lie" theory - that widespread voter fraud "stole" the election from Trump. Previous polling from Carolina Forward has shown that 37% of North Carolina voters overall agree with the Big Lie, including an incredible 81% of Republicans (see: "Conspiracy and Rage").

The Big Lie is marginally less popular with Latino voters. Only 31% overall say they agree with it, and outside of self-described Republicans, the Big Lie does not break 40% support:

No amount of factual analysis has been able to dislodge the Big Lie from its most fervent believers, for whom it fills more of an emotional need than a rational one.

Latino Voters: Younger, Educated

North Carolina's pool of likely Latino voters are younger, reasonably well-educated, and very moderate. About half have a two-year college degree or more, and almost a third are under 35. While they are almost equally split between liberals and conservatives, a disproportionate number of political moderates (the largest group) break towards Democrats.

The experts at Carolina Demography have done outstanding work with Census data breaking down precisely why North Carolina's disproportionately young Latino voter population is only set to grow in the coming years:

The age distribution of North Carolina's Latino population shows that large numbers of Latino residents are approaching legal voting age, and will continue to do so for years to come. Another smaller, but still considerable, population bulge is also aging into its late-20s and 30s. That group is much more likely to be eligible to vote than their older counterparts.

Read more about the Census demographics of North Carolina's Latino voters from Carolina Demography.

Part 2 of the poll will be released next week. It focuses on Latino voters' positions on key issues.

Read full toplines and crosstabs from the poll release here.

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