NEW YORK — It was clear through the 2020 election cycle that the Catholic vote wasn’t a monolith, but what was surprising for some was that was also true for young and Latino Catholic voters that some pundits assumed would overwhelmingly support Joe Biden in the 2020 presidential election.
“Some Latinos still connect mass deportations with Biden and Obama, as opposed to Trump and his opposition to abortion and support for religious liberty, [which] is really important for religious Latinos (in Florida),” said Alejandra Molina, national reporter covering Latinos and religion in the west coast for Religion News Service.
Molina was speaking during an online discussion Tuesday organized by the Georgetown University Initiative on Catholic Social Thought and Public Life.
According to Molina, “many people are realizing that we can’t see Latinos as a monolith.”
She used Arizona and Florida as examples. In Arizona, she saw Latino Catholic voters weigh immigration, COVID-19, the economy along with abortion. Though abortion was complicated because “many didn’t think Trump was that pro-life given how he spoke about immigrants.”
Meanwhile in Florida, she said abortion, immigration and religious liberty swung the Latino Catholic vote in favor of President Donald Trump.
Timothy Carney, commentary editor at the Washington Examiner, noted that despite this, it still appears Catholic Latinos nationwide voted for Biden with more than a two-to-one margin. Immigration, he said, is one issue that could have turned some of these voters away from Trump, and the Republican Party in general.
He noted the Republican Party’s immigration stance has turned away voters that might support the party for its pro-life and pro-religious liberty stance.
“There’s an opening there but people aren’t going to come through the door if they think you hate them. Republicans have generally given off a vibe of either disinterest or hatred. And generally, stop acting like you hate people is a good first step of getting them into the door,” Carney said.
When it comes to younger voters, a key factor Carney saw was the desire for a sense of belonging in the wake of COVID-19 isolation and racial tensions in the country.
This is compounded by the fact that less and less young people attend church every Sunday. He likened a Washington D.C. Black Lives Matter protest to a religious gathering.
“I’m seeing this among African American and Latinos but a younger generation that is actively shunning religion and turning more towards something else to fill the gap,” he said. “Some of what I saw at the Black Lives Matter protest I attended was exactly that, seeking to shape the world around you and not feel powerless.”
Jeanné Lewis, board member of Faith and Public Life, saw the same desire for belonging through Black Lives Matter protests as Carney.
She said young people today are “very discerning” when it comes to the flaws that exist in religious institutions. Young people “will want to create something new,” she said.
But Lewis also saw religious groups in Washington D.C. support the protests. She referenced a weekly moment of prayer where a stretch of churches would ring their bells for the amount of time that a Minneapolis police officer knelt on George Floyd’s neck and everyone in the area took a knee in solidarity.
Molina said Latino Catholics embraced the movement as well. She said Latino Catholics wanted their pastors to acknowledge it and help them lead the discussion around racial injustice.
“One thing that I’ve noticed among young Latino Catholics, especially during the demonstrations around Black Lives Matter, is that they were really seeking their church community to make space for Black Lives Matter discussions,” Molina said.