In the four battleground states where Latino voters are most likely to influence 2020 election results — Arizona, Florida, Nevada and Texas — Latinos have lower wages, are less likely to have health insurance, and have a higher likelihood of contracting COVID-19 than other racial or ethnic groups.

That finding, from a report published today by the UCLA Latino Policy and Politics Initiative, goes a long way toward explaining why Latino registered voters say the economy, health care, the COVID-19 pandemic, and racial and ethnic inequality are the top issues in the 2020 election, in a national survey conducted by the Pew Research Center.  

The report is intended to dispel a common misconception that immigration policy is a top-of-mind issue for Latino voters, and it suggests that candidates for federal, state and local offices who want to capture the Latino vote should talk about how they will address Latinos’ concerns about economic and health issues.

In the four battleground states, Latinos make up a larger share of workers than any other ethnic group earning less than $15 an hour. Latinos also receive significantly lower pay than white counterparts doing similar work: Latino workers earn 2.0% less in Arizona, 4.8% less in Florida, 1.6% less in Nevada and 5.3% in Texas than white workers in comparable jobs and with the same level of education.

Many Latinos have continued to work in essential jobs during the pandemic, putting them at a high risk for infection. As a result, Latinos have higher rates of COVID-19 than other racial groups. They also are more likely to be uninsured than any other demographic group in the four states. Compared to whites, the proportion of uninsured Latinos is 2.4 times higher in Arizona, 1.6 times higher in Florida, 2.3 times higher in Nevada and 2.2 times higher in Texas.

“Latino voters care about issues other than immigration reform,” said Rodrigo Dominguez-Villegas, research director for the policy and politics initiative and a co-author of the report. “Latinos are essential workers and essential voters, yet they remain overlooked by our nation’s leaders in conversations about health care and the economy. Now more than ever, with Latinos holding the power to determine this election, we must understand the serious economic and health disadvantages faced by Latinos and we must design policies that will address these disadvantages.”

The report makes the following policy recommendation to address the four issues Latinos are most concerned about:

  • Establish a national minimum wage of at least $15 and eliminate exclusions of minimum wage regulations for domestic, farm and tipped workers.
  • Increase Latino representation, retention and graduation in institutions of higher education through affirmative action, robust financial aid and integrated social welfare programs.
  • Establish universal health coverage and access to health care for all regardless of immigration or employment status.
  • Expand and enforce workplace health and safety regulations to protect workers from exposure to the novel coronavirus.

“Latinos will be critical in deciding the most consequential election of our lifetime,” said Sonja Diaz, founding director of the UCLA Latino Policy and Politics Initiative. “Latinos form the largest non-white segment of the electorate and an outsized share of our frontline workers, so their policy preferences are clear directives to the major parties to center policies on this demographic.”