conservatism and identifying as white among Latinos

Latinos preferred Biden over Trump by 65%-32% according to the exit polls. There is some debate about that statistic, but it seems safe to say that Latinos tilt Democratic, yet somewhat less so than they did in the recent past.

We also know that people who consider their own whiteness important to their identity are more likely to support Trump. In the Tufts Equity study, whites who consider race important to their own identity favored Trump by 61.5%-31%, whereas Trump’s lead among other whites was just 5 points (47%-42%: less than a majority).

In this context, it seems significant that a majority of Hispanics identify as white, and a substantial proportion–one quarter in the 2012 American National Election Study (ANES)–say that being white is important to their identity.

I get that last statistic from Filindra and Kolbe 2020. These authors find that Latinos are more likely to identify as white if they have higher incomes, and less likely to identify as white if they have more education and if they report strong consciousness as Latinos. (Possibly, education increases social awareness.) Latinos are more likely to be Republicans and to support cuts in welfare if they identify as white.

These are not mere correlations but the results of models that control for numerous other variables. It is equally interesting that some variables do not seem to matter, e.g., religion, skin tone (albeit known for only some respondents), and whether one was born in the US or overseas. The degree of acculturation is related to views of welfare but not to other measures.

Filindra and Kolbe use 2012 ANES data, and I was interested in change since then. In a nutshell, I find no important shifts. My graphs below show rates of identifying as conservative and as liberal in the ANES since 2000. (Moderates are not shown, although they are the largest group.) Whites who are not Hispanic are the most conservative, and at a steady rate. However, they have also become the most likely to identify as liberal (at the expense of moderates). Hispanics who identify as white have been somewhat less conservative than other whites. And Hispanics who do not identify as white have not been statistically different from those who do.

Source: Filindra, Alexandra and Kolbe, Melanie, Are Latinos Becoming White? The Role of White Self-Categorization and White Identity in Shaping Contemporary Hispanic Political and Policy Preferences (May 16, 2020). Available at SSRN: or

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About Peter

Associate Dean for Research and the Lincoln Filene Professor of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Tufts University's Tisch College of Civic Life. Concerned about civic education, civic engagement, and democratic reform in the United States and elsewhere.