Today is election day in New York City, well technically speaking it is primary day in NYC. Both Democrats and Republicans (those who have not already voted early) will go to the polls and decide their party’s nominees for the mayoral race later this year. However, all eyes will be set upon the Democratic Primary, since whoever gets nominated will most likely be elected as Bill De Blasio’s successor and, just like in the rest of the country, Latino Voters are poised to become crucial in deciding the winner of the election.
According to data collected by the Pew Research Center, Latino voters represent around 19% of both Registered and Leaning Democrats in the Empire State. Although this number represents the entire state (not only the city), it is expected that the final composition of the Latino vote in the Democratic Primary will be very similar to that measured by the Pew Research Center, with a Democrat strategist telling the New York Times that they expect 20% of primary electors will be Latino voters.
If this estimate is correct, then latinos would have slightly increased their importance within the Democratic electorate in New York City. The last time the city held a competitive primary to determine the Democrat nominee for Mayor of the city, an exit poll determined that 18% of electors to the 2013 primary election were Latinos.
Latino voters in New York City, just like in the rest of the country, are a rather diverse population and not a monolithic bloc as they are divided among nationalities, education, and migratory status. According to Pew Research, in 2016 the Latino electorate in New York was 42% of Puerto Rican origin, 21% of Dominican origin, and 7% Mexican. Another interesting data point is that almost 30% of eligible Hispanics in New York are naturalized citizens (usually first-generation), and almost a quarter of eligible voters have not completed high school.
Latino voters in New York tend to support Democrats over Republican candidates, with 76% of Hispanic voters casting their ballots for Joe Biden in November 2020, according to a New York Times exit poll. However, this does not mean that there are not Republican Latinos in the Empire State, with former President Trump gaining significant ground in NYC neighbourhoods with a significant Latino population, with the GOP almost doubling its performance in a large swath of those communities.
In a crowded primary, over 13 Democrats are fighting their way over the Democratic nomination, getting a lion share of the Latino electorate will surely be crucial to surviving the cutthroat competition for the mayoral race in one of the most renowned metropolis of the world. Hence, while Latino voters are an obvious objective for the Democratic candidates vying for their parties nomination, the complicated and diverse nature of it has made it difficult for any candidate to garner a commanding majority of NYC’s Democratic Latino voters.
The state of the race and Latino voters
While there is not a lot of public polling about the state of the race, many of them show that Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams is currently in the lead in the first-preference choices (this primary will use a convoluted system called multiple ranked voting) of most Democratic voters, with other candidates like Kathleen Garcia, Andrew Yang, and Maya Wiley competing in a dead heat for the second place.
A Politico/Marist poll, conducted between June 3rd and June 9th, interviewed 876 likely Democratic voters and found out that Adams leads the pack with a comfortable(ish) 24% of first-choice voting intentions, with Kathryn Garcia coming in second (17%), Wiley third (15%), and Yang in a distant fourth (13%). The poll also shows that 13% of likely voters are still undecided, a number that could be quite significant in such a crowded field.
With an election as tight as this one, all major candidates have done a significant effort to court the Latino vote and get any type of edge over their Democratic rivals. Candidates have started an arms race to get endorsements who they think might help them get leeway with the Latino population.
Yang got the endorsement of Ritchie Torres (a congressman with Puerto Rican ancestry) in early January, AOC endorsing Maya Wiley a couple of weeks ago, and Eric Adams getting the key endorsement of Rep. Adriano Espaillat, the first Dominican American to ever serve in Congress. The question is: Have these endorsements worked?
The same Politico/Marist poll gives us a glimpse of the preferences and attitudes of the sometimes complicated and diverse Latino electorate in New York City. According to the poll, there is not much difference between the voting preferences of the Latino population and on the general electorate: 22% support Adams, 16% would vote for Garcia, 17% for Maya Wiley, 14% for Yang, 18% for other candidates, and 14% remains undecided.
If these numbers are correct, then it is clear that there still is a sizable percentage of the Latino population that is up for grabs. However, it also illustrates to us just how diverse the Latino electorate is, defying the expectations and talking points of many political commentators who might think of them as a unified, monolithic bloc who thinks the same and votes the same, something that is clearly not true.
Adams appears to be in a comfortable position, yet there is a long way to go. A significant number of voters are still undecided, and the race for NYC’s mayor will be determined by a handful of votes after many ballot rounds, and who wins the most Latino voters might be the determinative factor of the race.