Abortion is back in the political spotlight. Senate candidate Todd Akin made sure of that in his remarks regarding abortion, rape, and his beliefs on the science of procreation. His comments came just days before the Republican National Committee finalized its convention platform that calls for a blanket ban on abortions. Such a position and the GOP’s larger stance on women’s reproductive choices should help Democrats with women, especially moderates and Independents. But perhaps the GOP can make up for this loss with a pro-life leaning electorate, Latinos.
On the issue of abortion Latinos are significantly more pro-life that non-Latinos. The Univision-Latino Decisions poll from late last year indicates that 19 percent of Latinos oppose abortions in all circumstances, compared to 15 percent for the rest of the electorate. A larger gap exists among those who believe that abortion should be legal in all cases; close to thirty percent of the general electorate supports a woman’s right to choose in all cases but less than a quarter of Latinos do.
There is little difference among Latinos on their pro-life views regardless of partisanship. Among Latinos the belief that abortion should be illegal in all circumstances is 19 percent, 20 percent, and 21 percent respectively for Democrats, Independents and Republicans. These minimal partisan differences become stark within the general electorate with a quarter of Republicans supporting a blanket ban on abortion while less than ten percent of Independents and Democrats hold the same view.
The GOP’s platform on abortion however, does not fully line up with the party’s presidential candidate’s views. Mitt Romney believes that exceptions should be made in cases of rape, incest, or to save a mother’s life. This view is the most popular among Latinos. Put differently, a majority of Latinos are in line with the GOP’s view on abortion, whether it’s the more hardline blanket ban on abortion or the lighter Romney version.
The pro-life position among Latinos is not surprising given that over two-thirds of Latinos are Catholic, a religion whose doctrine does not admit abortion in any circumstance. The faith background of Latinos and their policy views on abortion, suggest a potential social and moral affinity with the GOP. Half of registered Latino voters attend church once a week, a rate almost twice as high for non-Latinos. In theory it is plausible that the Republican Party could connect with Latinos through their similar views on abortion and higher levels of religiosity.
But, the reality is that Latino views on abortion and religion will not translate into votes for the GOP. Social and moral issues may sway white voters but they do not have the same effect on Latinos. Politics for Latinos is about economic concerns such as jobs, taxes, and gas prices. Only fifteen percent of Latinos view politics as being about moral issues such as abortion or gay marriage. Politics and religion are two separate realms for Latino voters. More specifically, Latinos don’t like their religious leaders meddling in politics. According to the impreMedia-Latino Decisions Religiosity poll an overwhelming majority of Latinos disagree that it is a good thing for religious leaders to tell their members which candidate to vote for.
For Latinos the issue that matters most is the economy followed closely by immigration. And on both of these issues the vast majority of Latinos support a more progressive agenda. Moral issues such as abortion and gay marriage simply don’t appear on the Latino political radar. The GOP and Latinos may be simpatico on issues of abortion but this is of little help, social issues are not what sway Latinos in the voting booth.
Dr. Victoria M. DeFrancesco Soto is an NBC Latino contributor, Senior Analyst for Latino Decisions and Fellow at the Center for Politics and Governance at the LBJ School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas, at Austin.