FOX NEWS - How religion, abortion will affect the midterm elections in Florida among crucial Hispanic voters

Bienvenido Faith Assembly

Aug 23, 2022

With 26.5% of Florida's total population consisting of Latino voters, according to the 2020 Census, candidates in the Sunshine State have historically depended on the Hispanic vote to push them ahead in both primary and general elections. Democratic and Republican strategists alike say Tuesday's election will come down to the state of the economy and crime. 

However, the U.S. Supreme Court's overturning of Roe v. Wade in June could affect Latino voters as they confront the issue of abortion, with a growing number of Hispanics moving away from the left.

"When we talk about Hispanic voters, it’s important to emphasize that there isn’t a single ‘Hispanic community,’ but rather many diverse communities across the country," Giancarlo Sopo, founder of Visto Media and head of Hispanic advertising for former President Trump’s 2020 campaign, told Fox News Digital. "There has clearly been a shift both nationally and in key regions."

The recent Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization landmark decision that eliminated the federal right to abortion and handed down the power of legalizing the procedure to the states has become a hot-button topic in recent months, especially within lower socioeconomic communities. 

"We know that Latino voters in Florida, just like voters across the country, support access to safe, legal abortion and want to be able to control their own health care decisions without political interference," Alexandra Mandado, CEO and president of Florida Planned Parenthood PAC, told Fox News Digital in an emailed statement. "Unfortunately, Latino communities face disproportionate barriers to care due to centuries of systemic discrimination, barriers that are only likely to get worse with the overturning of Roe v. Wade, including Florida’s abortion ban."

With the Hispanic community historically a more religious and left-leaning voting demographic, appealing to the communities' religious ties has been a commonly used campaign strategy.

"I think that's what's fueling a lot of the registration issues in terms of people changing their party registration. But then also too, just changing how they're voting. So I think that more than anything, I think is fueling that rise in terms of Republican support across the state," Kevin Walling, Democratic campaign strategist and former Biden 2020 campaign surrogate, told Fox News Digital. 

Walling said religion, among other factors including age and generation, was one of the factors playing a role in how Hispanic voters confronted the issue of abortion.  

"I think what we're seeing in some of the polling data is that the kind of traditional Catholic Latinos mirror non-Latino Catholics in terms of their support, overwhelming support, majority support for keeping abortion legal as opposed to the evangelical Christian Latinos, which are on the rise, which helped fuel Donald Trump's numbers in 2020, fuel Ron DeSantis' numbers in his election," said Walling.

Walling specifically emphasized both parties need to meet with Hispanic Floridians one-on-one while on their campaign trail, pointing specifically to De Santis' abortion ban signing at a majority-Hispanic church. 

"We can't just, again, look at this group as a monolith. We have to drill down and meet people where they're at and speak a language of religion in terms of how we talk about this," Walling said. 

Polling data from Pew Research Center found 71% of Floridian Latinos identified as Christian, with 22% saying they were Evangelical Protestant and 8% identifying as Mainline Protestant. 

"Hispanics tend to be very family-oriented. Many of them are Christians. They have strong moral convictions, many of them many are pro-life. And even the Democrats Hispanics, I believe, are becoming very increasingly uncomfortable with the Democrat Party and some of its policies, specifically on abortion," said Lynda Bell, president of Florida Right to Life, a pro-life legislation organization based in Florida, in an interview with Fox News Digital.

Abraham Enriquez, president of Bienvenido, a leading national Hispanic conservative advocacy organization, said the abortion issue has played a role in the Florida Latino vote since the 2020 general election.

"In 2020, we saw Catholic churches really mobilize around this issue, and it had a significant impact in the election. President Trump won 59% of Florida’s Catholic vote, a 5-point improvement from his 2016 performance in a state that has been decided by razor-thin margins," Enriquez said. "When you consider that about 2/3 of the growth in President Trump’s margins in the state came from Hispanic voters, there’s no question that abortion played an important role in the election."

Both Enriquez and Bell said advocacy within the Hispanic community for pro-life legislation and activism has grown since the Dobbs decision, with Enriquez stating the Dobbs decision "energized Hispanics." Bell stated she expects a wave of pro-life legislation following the November elections.

On the other hand, Sopo stated the strong religious and pro-life sentiments Latino voters are assumed to have are misconceptions about the voting demographic. 

"I think there’s a misconception that Hispanics, because we tend to be more religious than your average white Democrat, are extremely conservative on this issue. Of course, the sentiment varies by state and community, but overall, I would describe the Hispanic position on abortion as moderate," Sopo said. 

Sopo expects the abortion policy will likely not play a large role in November due to the state's stance on abortion.   

Florida's Tuesday primary elections will include federal, state, county and municipal races. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., is running unopposed for the GOP nomination but will face the winner of the Democratic primary in November.

DeSantis' Democratic challenger will also be determined following Tuesday's elections, with Charlie Crist considered the likely favorite to win.