Latino Issue Priorities and Political Behavior Across U.S. Contexts
Valenzuela, Ali A.
Stein, Sarah K.
To what extent and to which contexts is the issue of immigration salient to Latino voters and linked to their partisan attachments and voting behavior? In this study, we merge four surveys of Latino voter opinion collected in 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012, the U.S. Census demographics and election results in order to assess how Latino issue priorities vary by individual attributes and local contextual conditions. In particular, we ask how changes in the rate of growth and size of the local Latino population interact with political competition to shape the salience of immigration among Latino voters. We argue that the process linking demographics to issue priorities is conditioned by the degree of two-party competition. In addition, we explore links between the importance that Latinos place on immigration reform and their support for the Democratic Party and President Obama in 2012. We find that immigration issue salience declines with increasing Latino population proportions, controlling for a number of individual and contextual characteristics, except prior to 2012 in electorally competitive counties where immigration issue salience is increasing with Latino populations in neighborhoods. In addition, the issue of immigration is strongly predictive of Democratic Party identification and voting preference for President Obama over Governor Romney in 2012. These analyses generate insight about the impact of demographic context and the composition of local populations on the salience of immigration among Latino voters, as well as how the political environment works to politicize (or not) the issue of immigration and its connection to Latino political behavior.