"Covid-19 recovery, economy top priorities for Latinos"
The economy was followed by healthcare (76%), the Covid-19 pandemic (72%), racial and ethnic inequality (66%), violent crime (63%) and climate change (60%).

 Covid-19 relief efforts and the US economy are likely to continue to be the most important issues for Latino voters over the next few years, rather than immigration and border issues, according to experts and voter data.

Ahead of the November 2020 elections, for example, statistics from the Pew Research Center indicated that the economy - rather than immigration - was the most important issue for Hispanic voters in the country, ahead of immigration.

According to the statistics, about eight-in-ten Latino registered voters - and US voters overall - rated the economy as the most important issue for them.

The economy was followed by healthcare (76%), the Covid-19 pandemic (72%), racial and ethnic inequality (66%), violent crime (63%) and climate change (60%). Immigration was only cited as "very important" by 59% of Hispanics.

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"I think it's not the most important factor, and that explains many of the ironies that we see in voter behavior," said Juan Fernando Ibarra Del Cueto, a political researcher and Assistant Professor of Political Science at Colgate University.

"When you look at the data, it consistently shows that Latinos do not see immigration as a primary issue when thinking about what's important to them," he added. "That doesn't mean they think it's unimportant. They think it's an important issue in numbers that exceed those of the national population, but it's not the top issue." 

I think it's not the most important factor, and that explains many of the ironies that we see in voter behavior

While he said that the issue of border security, for example, isn't particularly important to Latino voters as a whole, there are important distinctions based on geography.

"This is an issue where you need to carefully distinguish between those Latinos who live closer to the border areas, and those who don't," he said. "There's some counterintuitive research findings pointing that while Latinos tend to be supportive of pathways to citizenship for those already in the country, they are not necessarily opposed to border security or measures that combat illegal immigration to the United States."

Additionally, Del Cueto said that the Latino eligible voters are often slightly more conservative than those who cannot vote, which also helps explain the priorities of many voters within the community.

Other Latino organizations in the US have noted that, in the short-term, Covid-19 relief efforts will be the top priority for Hispanic voters - particularly in local elections scheduled to take place over the course of the next two years.

In New Jersey, for example, local Latino advocacy organizations have been reaching out to local Latino voters in an effort to get them to contact their governor and push for aid for 500,000 immigrants, who they believe have been left out of Covid-19 relief measures.

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"We're hyper-focused on doing voter engagement around recovery for all," said Nedia Morsy, a representative of Make the Road New Jersey, the local chapter of the national Make the Road advocacy organization.

Morsy added that while Covid-19 relief efforts and the economy are primary concerns, they remain "deeply connected" to immigration - a complexity that is often overlooked in the national conversation.

"What Covid-19 brought out is not only the fear that immigrant communities are living under, but now also the inability to provide for one's family and go out and risk getting new jobs," she said. "All of this it is deeply connected. It's hard to talk about Covid-19 without talking about immigration and job loss. In all three categories, immigrant communities have been hit the hardest."

Cristina Pinzon, the public relations secretary of Latinas United for Political Empowerment (LUPE PAC) said there remains a perception that "Latinos don't vote."

According to Pinzon, while not the primary issue, many Latino voters are likely to vote on how members of their communities - including immigrants - were handled during the pandemic.

"We're all one. Even though I'm a Latina in New Jersey, I still have friends and family members that are immigrants," she said. "I think Latino voters in general are not going to forget that."

During the November 2020 election, polling data shows that a majority of Latinos in the country voted for Joe Biden.

In some states, however, the margin of victory was narrow. In Miami-Dade County, for example - where Latinos account for 58% of registered voters - Biden lead by only about 7 percentage points, compared to Hillary Clinton's 30 percentage point lead in 2016.

"The percentage of these groups that supported Trump was larger than for previous Republican candidates. That can seem surprising, given the specific rhetoric Donald Trump used," Del Cueto said. "Latinos are a very diverse set of people."

Notably, ahead of the election, Latinos were also found to be less likely to be "extremely' motivated to vote, with only 54% of respondents saying they were extremely interested in the election, compared to 59% of US voters overall.

In January, following the election, a study from the UCLA Latino Policy and Politics Initiative found that Latino voters were decisive to Biden's victory, with 16.6 million casting their vote in November - a 30.9% increase over the 2016 presidential election.

At the time the report was released, Sonja Diaz, the founding director of the Latino Policy and Politics Initiative, said that Latinos will hope to see their needs reflected by Biden administration policies.

"The voters who helped put them in the White House will be expecting to see their needs reflected in federal policy, which is especially critical at a time when Latinos and Black communities are bearing the brunt of a devastating pandemic that requires urgent national action," she said.

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