North Carolina’s Hispanic population continues to grow – from 5% of the state’s population in the 2000 census, to 8% in the 2010 census, to 11% in the 2020 census. It’s still a lower percentage than America as a whole, which is 19% Hispanic, but the steady growth raises questions about the impact of the increased Hispanic presence on state politics. And though they’ve been seen as a reliable voting bloc for Democrats in the past, there are signs that Hispanic Americans are emerging as a new demographic.
Signs of this change were evident in the last presidential election. In a June 1, 2022 analysis by The Wall Street Journal of the 2020 election results, WSJ editor and reporter Aaron Zitner highlighted a massive shift in Hispanic alignment across the country. He said 3,730 predominantly Hispanic census tracts moved to Republicans from the previous election, while only 352 moved to Democrats.
“If this change is lasting, it marks a big change for both political parties,” Zitner said. “If Latino voters are moving away from the Democratic Party and becoming more of a swing group, it means one of the pillars of the Democratic coalition is becoming fragile. The Republicans, on the other hand, have become the party of the American white working class. But they want to be the party of the working class across all racial groups. This movement among Latino voters, if it continues, suggests that this is in fact happening, and Republicans can become America’s party of the future by building, across different races, a party of the working class. .
In Florida, Trump won nearly 70% of Cuban voters in the Miami area, narrowing Biden’s margins to just 7% in Miami-Dade County, an area where Clinton won by 30% in 2016. Trump has also made significant gains with Venezuelans, Colombians, and Puerto Ricans statewide.
Democrats have long argued that Hispanic voters whose heritage dates back to socialist or communist nations — particularly Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua — are simply exceptions to the general rule that Hispanics vote Democratic. These groups, it is claimed, vote Republican only in reaction to the politics they have shunned. This antisocialism has certainly contributed to the good performance of the Republicans among Hispanics in Florida.
But, with Venezuelans now by far the fastest growing segment of the Hispanic population, ignoring the anti-socialist vote among Hispanics could be a problem for Democrats. Between 2010 and 2019, according to Pew Research, Venezuela’s population grew by 126% and now numbers 540,000 people. Half of them settled in Florida, and the fact that they voted 2-1 for Trump helped secure the state.
North Carolina also has a thriving Venezuelan population, including Hispanic Republican Coalition Vice President Jonathan Uzcategui.
“The Venezuelan community in North Carolina is growing,” Uzcategui told the Carolina Journal. “They are focused on moving to big cities, like Charlotte and Raleigh. Wake and Mecklenburg counties are where I see most Venezuelans moving to. And that’s a good thing, because these people are going to bring a different perspective to Central Americans. [and other Hispanics already living in these cities].”
But the rise in Hispanic Republicans isn’t just coming from Venezuelans or Cubans. It has also spread to Mexican-Americans, who make up 62% of the Hispanic population.
In Texas, Zapata County, 93% Hispanic in the Rio Grande Valley, turned Republican for the first time in a century, favoring Trump in 2020 despite an easy 33-point victory for Hillary Clinton in 2016. The neighboring county de Starr, who is 98% Hispanic, went from a 60-point win for Clinton to just a 5-point win for Biden in 2020. That shift appeared to hold two years later as the U.S. congressional district 86% Hispanic in the region was won by Mexican-born Republican Maya Flores on June 14 in a special election.
Changes like in Texas and Florida, however, were not uniform among all Hispanic voters. According to FiveThirtyEight’s analysis, Hispanics in cities have remained firmly with Democrats. It was among rural Hispanics and those without college degrees that Republicans made their gains.
Thus, a look at the demographics of North Carolina’s Hispanic population could give an indication as to whether there are similar opportunities that Republicans will look to capitalize on.
According to data from the American Immigration Council, 28% of immigrants to North Carolina arrived from Mexico. It is by far the largest immigrant group in the state. Indians come next with 9%, followed by Hondurans with 4%.
But the latest US census data showed that 60% of the state’s Hispanic population are non-immigrants. They are more often second and third generation Americans. Fifty-four percent are of Mexican descent – lower than the national makeup of Hispanics, which is 62% Mexican – 19% are Central American, 11% are Puerto Rican, and the remainder are of other nationalities.
And they live in urban and rural communities across the state. The largest concentrated numbers live in the urban centers of Mecklenburg (170k), Wake (128k), Forsyth (55k), Durham (50k), Guilford (52k), Cumberland (39k), Buncombe (22k), New Hanover (17k ) and Orange (16k). Taken together, Hispanics living in these counties make up roughly half of the 1.1 million people in the state. But not all parts of these counties are urban, and the four counties with the highest percentage of Hispanic residents are rural eastern counties – Duplin (22%), Sampson (21%), Lee (21), Johnson (16%). Thus, the urban and rural distribution is quite equal in the state.
In terms of education levels, 17% of the state’s Hispanic population over the age of 25 has at least a bachelor’s degree. That’s less than half the national average, which Pew Research says is 38%.
In party affiliation, there are more Hispanics registered as Independents (89,958) in North Carolina than Democrats (85,538) or Republicans (43,126). Democratic numbers are double Republican numbers, but independents in general tend to be Republicans in the polls. Independents also chose Republican ballots over Democrats 62% to 37% in recent primaries.
High numbers in rural areas, an influx of conservative-leaning Venezuelans into urban areas, a below-average college education, and a plurality of registered independents are all strong signs that Hispanics in the state might be open to Republican outreach efforts. And Uzcategui said those efforts are paying off.
Uzcategui is involved in outreach across the state at gas stations and grocery stores in Hispanic neighborhoods, as well as other events aimed at introducing the Hispanic population to conservative ideas and the Republican Party. He said the biggest issues he hears about are inflation, gas prices, and indoctrination by public schools, and they get very little pushback when connecting with Hispanics on these Questions.
“As things stand, everywhere we go doesn’t look good for the Democratic Party,” Uzcategui said. “I think the Hispanic community in North Carolina is going to do what you’ve seen happen in Texas, what you’ve seen happen in Florida, what you’ve seen happen across the country.”
Uzcategui said what is really causing change is that Democratic policies are starting to hit them in the wallet. Additionally, many Hispanics tell him they see the Democrats as the party against religion and religious values, which he says are very important to Hispanic voters.
“They’re starting to see who’s who,” he says. “These people [Democrats] are not for religious beliefs, and especially with Roe v. Wade. This kind of coronation. Now people in the Hispanic community are starting to understand, these people are just for abortion on demand. And we’re not for that kind of stuff.