In all the recent talk about Republican gains among the fast-growing Hispanic and Latino populations in 2020 and 2022, there’s been a prevailing assumption that conservative cultural and religious views among these voters and the alleged progressive radicalism of the Democratic Party on subjects like abortion have played a major part in driving them to the right. While it is perilous to make too many generalizations about people of highly diverse national origins, proximity to immigration, religions, socioeconomic status, regions of the country, and even racial identities, it is pretty clear overall that on this decade’s hottest-button culture-war issue of abortion, Hispanic Americans are fully part of the country’s solid pro-choice majority. If Hispanics are trending to the right, it’s largely for other reasons.
Indeed, the recent direction of Hispanic opinion has unquestionably been toward support for legalized abortion. A major Pew survey in 2007-2008 showed a narrow plurality of Hispanics — 49 percent — agreeing that abortion should be “illegal in all or most cases,” with 47 percent agreeing that it should be “legal in all or most cases,” at a time when, overall, 54 percent of Americans favored legal abortion. The most recent Pew survey on abortion in June of 2022 (just before the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade) showed 60 percent of Hispanics favoring legal abortion in all or most cases, right around the overall 61 percent.
To some extent, this trend reflects a particularly strong shift toward pro-choice views among Hispanic Catholics. In 2013, the Public Religion Research Institute found that 54 percent of U.S. Hispanic Catholics opposed legalized abortion. In 2022, PRRI showed the anti-abortion percentage dropping to 37 percent, with 61 percent favoring legalized abortion. Another factor driving pro-choice opinion has been a youth-led rise in the percentage of religiously non-affiliated Hispanics, as Pew explained in 2022:
As of 2022, 43% of Hispanic adults identify as Catholic, down from 67% in 2010. Even so, Latinos remain about twice as likely as U.S. adults overall to identify as Catholic, and considerably less likely to be Protestant. … The share of Latinos who are religiously unaffiliated is on par with U.S. adults overall.
At the same time, a relatively high percentage of U.S. Hispanic Protestants — 21 percent of the Hispanic population — are Evangelicals, often Pentecostals (especially recent immigrants from Central America). They provide a hard kernel of anti-abortion opinion; in the 2022 PRRI survey, 54 percent of Hispanic Protestants were opposed to legal abortion. They are not, contrary to the prevailing buzz, increasing as a share of the Hispanic population; the religious “nones” are the high-growth category in this as in other demographic groups.
Overall, U.S. Hispanics are roughly in sync with national opinion on abortion. Growth in Republican Party voting or affiliation is more likely to be attributable to other factors, ranging from the strongly anti-socialist views of Cuban and Venezuelan immigrants in Florida to support for local fossil-fuel-based industries in Texas, to a general sense in some states that Democrats are taking Hispanic voters for granted. Abortion policy would appear to have little to do with it, and shouldn’t provide any particular opportunity for a GOP that is out of step with the pro-choice majority of Americans overall. Indeed, one analysis of the 2022 midterms showed intense pro-choice opinion definitely helped produce better-than-anticipated Democratic results among Hispanics/Latinos in the latest election: “Latinos who chose abortion as their top issue, wrote Equis, while a smaller group, voted in dominant fashion for Democrats, and they turned out beyond predicted rates.”
Don’t be surprised if that trend continues until Republicans change their tune on abortion policy.