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Democrats Hopes in 2022 Hinge on Voters of Color, Analysis Finds

June 14, 2021 by Reece Nations
An examination by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution found that human error, equipment failure and a complicated, multicomputer voting system combined to create chaos that left some Georgia voters waiting as long as eight hours to cast ballots during June 9, 2020, statewide primary elections. (John Spink/Atlanta Journal-Constitution/TNS)

An analysis of the 2020 election conducted by several prominent Democratic advocacy groups determined that voters of color played critical roles in key races, among other findings.

The report — conducted jointly by The Collective PAC, The Third Way and Latino Victory — concluded that drop-offs in support among Latino and Hispanic voters were the driving force behind Democratic losses in races in Florida, Texas and New Mexico. The loss in support for Democratic candidates was particularly distinct among working-class and non-college voters in Latino and Hispanic communities.

“Our approach to voters of color significantly hurt our outcomes,” the text of the report read. “Our assumptions about Dem support among voters of color — and the lack of differentiation in our messaging and outreach within demographic groups — cost us support in key races. As in previous cycles, Democrats generally treated Black, Latino, and [Asian American and Pacific Islander] voters as [get-out-the-vote] targets, concentrating outreach efforts closer to Election Day and in some cases after early voting was already underway.”

Reduced support for Democrats among AAPI voters contributed to election losses in key California races, the report found. Even in instances where Black voters played critical roles in Democratic victories — such as in Georgia, Arizona and Michigan — 2020 voting data indicates a clear drop-off in support compared to the two previous election years.

Further, the report concludes that voters of color were targeted by campaigns of “misinformation and disinformation,” both in-person and online. Largely, Democratic campaigns were unable to assess and respond to these campaigns as they occurred.

“National strategy failed to take into account regional and local differences, socioeconomic status, urbanicity, or country of origin — despite higher support for Democrats among voters from Mexico, Puerto Rico, and the Dominican Republic compared to Cuban-American voters,” the text of the report read. “Latino and Hispanic voters were broadly treated as [get-out-the-vote] targets rather than audiences for persuasion earlier in the cycle, and the modeling, polling, and subsequent campaign decision making reflected this assumption.”

Post-election analysis found that while Sen. Mark Kelly, D-Ariz., retained “near 2016” levels of support among Latino voters, President Joe Biden incurred heavier losses among the demographic. This suggests split-ticket voting took place in the state, leading to more competitive races near the top of the ticket.

Despite a “modest dip” in support among Black voters during races in Virginia and North Carolina, increased voter turnout from the demographic nationally led to more net votes for Democrats in 2020 than in the 2016 presidential election. Further, the analysis found that Black voters fueled the runoff victories of Sens. Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff in Georgia, contributing to the narrow Democratic Senate-majority obtained during the elections.

Messaging campaigns that painted Democratic candidates as “radical” in one way or another contributed to Republican gains among minority demographics. Incumbents who could specify legislative victories to voters fared better in these instances, but GOP messaging that painted Democrats as radical socialists determined to keep the post-COVID-19 economy shut down was effective.

The analysis also pointed to issues with pre-election polling, the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, and high hopes for a “blue wave” as reasons why Democrats underperformed in some areas of the 2020 elections. Miscalculations in the “conventional wisdom” that maintains higher voter turnouts are a positive sign for Democrats likely led to Republicans diverting resources to races that appeared close but did not require as much investment as they received.

“The good news is that the 2020 experience has shined a spotlight on areas the Democratic Party and Democratic leaders can make gains in the future — from defining and sharing a vision on race and racial justice to grappling with the Democratic brand to shoring up our small ‘d’ democratic institutions for the future,” the text of the study read. “At a minimum, this past cycle should make clear the urgency around combatting GOP voter suppression efforts, so often a thinly veiled attempt to exclude communities of color and in 2021 an open backlash to expanded early vote and vote-by-mail that made it easier for more voters than ever before to make their voices heard.”

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