In almost every majority Hispanic county and electoral district, president Donald Trump gained against his 2016 presidential performance, though he lost almost all of these areas again, most by wide margins. We also saw these shifts in polling data before and after the election where higher shares of Latino voters polled supported Trump than 2016 which proved accurate.

For example, in Miami-Dade county, the county swung 20 points away from Biden, with Trump receiving roughly 200,000 more votes than in 2016 countywide. The biggest swings towards either candidate were towards Trump in rural Hispanic counties in the southern part of Texas, a state that is currently semi-contested on the federal level on the about same level as Ohio Minnesota or New Hampshire or perhaps even Virginia.

Even in areas in states that aren't realistically contested in terms of their partisanship, this shift was still shown in places like Bronx County in New York State , California, and pockets elsewhere like Lawrence Massachusetts.

What explains these gains, especially since they were from a president that said things that could be seen as targeted against that community starting in 2016?

Note: data from elections after 2020 show these gains might not be permanent. For example the New Jersey governor election showed the incumbent outperforming Biden's showing in heavily Hispanic areas of the state at the municipality level like Union City despite doing a lot worse statewide.

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    A starting source... fivethirtyeight.com/features/…
    – James K
    Dec 28, 2021 at 0:08
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    “What explains these gains, especially since they were from a president that said things that could be seen as targeted against that community starting in 2016?” As someone who has grown up in New York City, I can assure you the core problem with people being “shocked” about the “Latino” vote “shifting” is the fundamental problem of lumping in South Americans, Mexicans, Puerto Ricans and so on and so on into one group. These political stratifications have always existed because there is utterly no such thing as a unified “Latino” vote or political POV. Dec 28, 2021 at 19:25
  • it's the economy stupid; service workers can't/won't tolerate shutdowns. Rarely has one's livelihood so directly been on the ballot as for unskilled workers (meat, ag, maids, cooks) in 2020.
    – dandavis
    Dec 30, 2021 at 22:24

3 Answers 3


First thing to note is that while there was a swing towards Trump in 2020, Biden still won a majority of the Latino (and Latina) vote.

One reason for the swing was rebalancing. Support for Trump among Hispanic voters was exceptionally low in 2016. Simple elasticity and "reverting to the mean" would produce a swing toward Trump. In an election dominated by COVID19, Trump didn't bait Hispanic voters with comments about Mexican "drug-dealers and rapists". With such comments four years in the past conservative voters felt it was possible to return to the Republican party in 2020.

Secondly there are some particular populations that moved substantially towards Trump. Notably the generally Conservative Cuban-American demographic in Miami, and the largely rural South Texas demographic. Both groups have a natural affinity for a socially conservative party. The Republican party had campaigned hard in Miami, painting Biden as a stalking horse for Socialism. And Latino citizens in South Texas actually have more to gain from reduced immigration from Mexico. Mexicans would directly compete with them for the same jobs and services.

Lockdowns might also have affected Hispanic Americans more significantly, as a lesser proportion have the type of job that can be easily done from home. So the general Republican preference for fewer COVID controls may also have gained support in some communities.

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    In regards to your second point, it's important to remember that Latinos tend to be socially conservative, and would be a natural fit for the Republican party if it weren't for the party's rampant xenophobia.
    – Mark
    Dec 29, 2021 at 21:41
  • @Mark - GWB actually made exactly this point, and made outreach to Hispanic voters the linchpin of his effort to gain his party a long-term majority coalition. As a partisan of the other party, that had me seriously worried at the time. As a bigger partisan for democracy in general, turns out I should have been much more worried that his party would go the other way.
    – T.E.D.
    Dec 30, 2021 at 18:31
  • I suspect the last paragraph about the economy is very important and deserves sources and elaboration.
    – qwr
    Dec 30, 2021 at 23:56

Spanish language media. Radio host Thom Hartmann has been going on for quite a while about how the change in Hispanic vote is due to the rise of conservative Spanish radio. From a talk-radio article in the Nation (which he refers to later):

Even worse, entirely below Democrats’ radar, conservative Spanish-language programming is exploding across Texas and Florida, where Trump picked up breathtaking Hispanic margins in 2020.

From an interview with Hartmann in Current Affairs over the power of talk radio (among other things) he explains how conservative Spanish radio is happening:

And what’s happening is that a group of deep-pocketed Hispanic right-wingers, mostly Cuban exiles, have been renting radio stations around the country [...] local Spanish language [...] hiring DJs who are delivering right-wing political messages, you know, snarky comments and things between songs.

He definitely thinks this is changing minds:

[...] Democrats can’t figure out why the Hispanic vote has moved 7% towards the Republican Party in the last two years. And I’m yelling at the web page going, It’s the freakin’ radio, you know?

This April 8th Meet the Press segment makes the same point about Texas radio. But it mostly talks about Spanish language social media and translated Alex Jones (and other conservative/Alt-right sources). They say Spanish FaceBook, etc... has much more misinformation and tends not to be flagged; that it's a different world from English media. Regular Spanish-speakers are hearing that Hillary Clinton finally died in Guantanamo after she was arrested for kidnapping children (at 4:04)

  • He's likely onto something. There was in fact talk that there was a lot of outreach going on in the last few years that has been totally under the radar of the national media because it has been all over radio airwaves in a language most US political reporters don't know. It pops up every now and then when a pol gets a weird question out of the blue that turns out to have been a Spanish-language radio meme unknown anywhere else.
    – T.E.D.
    Dec 30, 2021 at 18:35
  • @T.E.D. Spanish being a "secret" political language may be it. As you may know Hartmann's talk show is national, and when he opines on an event in smallTown, USA he often gets a call from a resident. But he's been talking about conservative Spanish radio for 1/2 a year and I've never heard a call "I live in TX/FL/... and here's my spanish radio station story". Dec 30, 2021 at 23:01

Not to contradict the other answers but to add:

Along with the return to the mean James K. mentions in his answer, there are, maybe surprisingly, legitimate reasons a person, of any ethnicity, could have decided to support Trump by seeing his actions in office (I'm hard pressed to say many would have changed opinion by listening to him). I say this as there are still many single issue, or "few issue" voters. Below I outline a couple specific points that likely explain at least a portion of the increase in the Latino vote for Trump in 2020 compared to 2016.

According to this report in the National Archives, written by Trump's staff while leaving office1, so please be warned of the bias, here is a list of accomplishments that could have swayed Latino voters:

Before [the pandemic], we built the world’s most prosperous economy.

America gained 7 million new jobs – more than three times government experts’ projections.
Middle-Class family income increased nearly $6,000 – more than five times the gains during the entire previous administration.
The unemployment rate reached 3.5 percent, the lowest in a half-century.*
Achieved 40 months in a row with more job openings than job-hirings.
More Americans reported being employed than ever before – nearly 160 million.
Jobless claims hit a nearly 50-year low.
The number of people claiming unemployment insurance as a share of the population hit its lowest on record.
Incomes rose in every single metro area in the United States for the first time in nearly 3 decades.

Explanation: Most of these statistics also are disproportionately beneficial to working-class and lower income families. As is, regrettably, a well known issue in our country, Latinos still make up a disproportionate portion of that group. (unemployment affects those with less wealth more greatly than those with more wealth)

And most specifically to the demographic mentioned:

Delivered a future of greater promise and opportunity for citizens of all backgrounds.

Unemployment rates for African Americans, Hispanic Americans, Asian Americans, Native Americans, veterans, individuals with disabilities, and those without a high school diploma all reached record lows.
Unemployment for women hit its lowest rate in nearly 70 years.
Lifted nearly 7 million people off of food stamps.
Poverty rates for African Americans and Hispanic Americans reached record lows.
Income inequality fell for two straight years, and by the largest amount in over a decade.
The bottom 50 percent of American households saw a 40 percent increase in net worth.
Wages rose fastest for low-income and blue collar workers – a 16 percent pay increase.
African American homeownership increased from 41.7 percent to 46.4 percent.

The point is there were numerous, legitimate success stories for the US during the Trump administration in specific areas. Many people are still 1-3 issue voters. Regardless of one's overall feeling towards the Trump administration, it's easy to see how another's vote could be swayed by specific positives that are more prevalent than other negatives in their lives. The above are all specific reasons why the Latino vote may have swayed more drastically than other demographics - but is by no means a comprehensive list.

Whether it is fair to attribute the economic state at that time to Trump or his policies, these improvements did happen during his presidency, which certainly impacts voter opinion - even if all the economic improvements were, i.e. due to consistent quantitative easing since '09, or pure speculation on advanced deregulation further than anything that occurred from 2016-2020, or anything else outside any current president's control.

1 "and later reviewed for accuracy by historians/archivists (but maintaining biased, "fluffy" language)" this is a statement I thought this morning to be accurate, but I'm not sure is, I will be researching, but divisban has made very good points about this specific type of entry to the archives. I'm hard-pressed to believe the core-data would be inaccurate despite clear political bias in the phrasing, but I cannot verify at this time. Suggestions are welcome. - also alternative sources for some of this data would be much appreciated (or better yet for my laziness, primary sources cited by Trump's team for this doc)

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    The page at archive.gov is an opinion piece. It was written by "the government", which was Trump staffers while he was in office. That stuff is always unchecked puff. XXX This also doesn't address why only hispanic voters noticed this and that's the Q: what happened that only changed Hispanic votes and no others. Or is it well known the Latinx love low drug prices much more than white people? Dec 28, 2021 at 23:28
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    @OwenReynolds I've added explanations for things I assumed to be apparent, thank you for the feedback. As far as it being an opinion piece, the phrasing is opinionated, and I've made that clear - the statistics are factual. Please feel free to present any counter research to the contrary though, and I'll happily add it to the answer
    – TCooper
    Dec 29, 2021 at 16:17
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    @divibsan I stated specifically that the phrasing was biased - those are all real numbers. How can you say I'm stating its unbiased when I specifically say it is biased? Also, how do the explanations I edited in not explain specifically how those items affect latino voters? I'm open to changing them... and yet, it seems very clear, so I don't see how to improve.
    – TCooper
    Dec 29, 2021 at 16:55
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    @divibsan I'm actually conservative, mostly, so I think Trump is a clown and have no respect for him or the way he treated the office of President. So no, that isn't enough for me - but those numbers come from real sources. The archives are vetted after the fact, so the fluffy language remains, but the hard facts are accurate. "historians and archivists will be the ones responsible for carefully reviewing the accuracy and authenticity of the documents produced by the office for the historical archive." bookriot.com/archives-and-archivists (there are better sources, sure, but its one)
    – TCooper
    Dec 29, 2021 at 17:14
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    @divibisan I'm trying to be objective, and there were in fact things that happened in his presidency that were good for the general public. Further I'm not misrepresenting my source, that is in fact linked to a document in the national archives; and is in fact not a campaign document by any factual definition. It seems like you're so anti-Trump that as soon as someone acknowledges things happened that weren't bad, you assume them to be false.
    – TCooper
    Dec 29, 2021 at 17:15

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