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How is abortion rights playing into the choices for Latino voters?

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

OK. We're going to talk more about all this with Aileen Cardona-Arroyo. She is vice president of the public opinion research firm Hart Research Associates, which does polling for Democrats. She specializes in the views of Latino voters. Thanks so much for being with us this morning.

AILEEN CARDONA-ARROYO: Yeah. Great to be here.

MARTIN: What does your polling say about how much abortion is animating Democrats on a broad scale, first off?

CARDONA-ARROYO: No. You know, I think the Dobbs decision - there's a before and after the cycle, you know? Of course, as it is right now heading into the November election, the economy, the cost of living, inflation was top of mind for voters. And it still is today. But I think what the Dobbs decision did was add another variable into the mix this election cycle, energizing the Democratic base and really, I think, giving Democrats something that can bring back the races to the state and local level. You know, Republicans were, at the start of the year, really trying to make this election about Biden and a referendum on him. And, you know, the Dobbs decision essentially said, well, this is a matter of the states. And if it's a matter for the states, that means that it matters who is your senator, your member of Congress, who represents you at the local level in your state. And it allows Democrats to make the election about those individual races in a way that they don't have to be as tied to Biden and what's happening at the federal level.

MARTIN: Well, let's drill down a bit then. You spent a lot of time looking into what motivates Latino voters in particular. Understanding Latino voters are not a monolith - they're as diverse a group as any other. But do they trend more socially conservative than, say, white Democratic voters?

CARDONA-ARROYO: You know, that's kind of a complicated question to answer. I think it depends on which Latino voters you're looking at. You know, there's a big divide based on religion. So you know, many people believe that because Latinos are predominantly Catholic, that means they're going to be very conservative on the issue of abortion. And really, for Latino Catholics, it's not an issue like you see, for instance, with white evangelicals, where it's an issue they vote on as saliently. It's more, you know, they actually tend to be predominantly supportive of abortion access, even if there's some variation in how much restrictions they want. It's really...

MARTIN: But they're not single-issue voters like white evangelicals?

CARDONA-ARROYO: Exactly. But when you do look at Latino evangelicals, they do actually behave or look like - more like white evangelicals, in that abortion is a salient issue. They tend to be more single-issue voters on abortion. And that, of course, is a much smaller percentage of Latino voters generally. But they are growing and, in some areas, pretty energized around this issue. So it really does vary by, you know, which Latino voters you're looking at.

MARTIN: Does geography play into it? Are Latinos in blue states more concerned about restoring reproductive rights? Do most Latinos in red states want to keep the laws restrictive?

CARDONA-ARROYO: Absolutely. I think, you know, you can cut the Latino electorate in many ways and have it be important politically. But I think the weight of geography is super important for understanding Latino political behavior. You know, Latinos in South Texas versus Florida and Nevada, we're talking about, you know, different electorates altogether.

MARTIN: Yeah.

CARDONA-ARROYO: I think, as a whole, in the aggregate, when we do polling of Latinos, we do see that the vast majority of Latinos want abortion access. You know, they're not opposed to it. But you'll find that in some states, like Nevada, support for abortion access is, perhaps, you know, more stronger than it is in a state like, you know, in Texas, especially South Texas, when perhaps the economy is even more salient than elsewhere. So you do see that variation, that while at the aggregate, Latinos - the vast majority remain supportive of abortion access, there are some variations depending on which state you're looking at.

MARTIN: So A and Domenico nodded to this. But based on your polling looking into these issues for Democrats, do you think the party is making a mistake by focusing on abortion instead of really nailing a message about the state of the economy?

CARDONA-ARROYO: Well, I think it shouldn't be an either or, you know? I think, should Democrats be talking about abortion? Absolutely. We know that in midterms especially, turnout is a big factor. And we know that is an issue that is going to turn out - or we expect it to turn out the base. And so - and it's also an issue where the vast majority of voters, even those who are not Democrats, you know, they oppose extreme restrictions on abortion. So should Democrats talk about it? Absolutely. But at the same time, should Democrats only talk about abortion? No, absolutely not. You know, we see in polling after polling that the cost of living, inflation, the economy, other issues like crime, education, those are top concerns still. And to win or to perform well in November, Democrats need to be able to speak to those top concerns as well.

MARTIN: Aileen Cardona-Arroyo is vice president of the public opinion research firm Hart Research Associates. Thanks for your time.

CARDONA-ARROYO: Thank you so much. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.