Whether watching the price at the pump while filling up our cars with gas or looking at the receipt after shopping for groceries, the spring of 2022 will almost certainly be remembered as a time where it was impossible to ignore inflation.
Those of us who work in the public-policy arena understand that “pocketbook issues” are often what matter most to voters. But we also know that their views on many issues are not as straightforward as shock over the price of filling up the tank or what it costs to buy a gallon of milk. You can learn quite a bit by listening to people —- by asking them what it is they care about.
To get a better sense of top issues in the central-mountain region, Voces Unidas Action Fund had 1,900 phone conversations this spring with registered Latino voters in Garfield, Eagle, Pitkin, Lake, and Summit counties. These conversations are part of our year-round base-building work to learn about the local, state and federal issues that are top-of-mind with Latino voters in advance of the June 28 primary election and November general election.
For 39% of respondents, “immigration” was the most important issue. Other issues singled out as mattering most included “education” for 26%, “the economy” for 22%, and “housing” for 19%.
So, financial issues are front-and-center for Latinas and Latinos in the region. What may come as a surprise, however, is that the single-most-important issue for most respondents was immigration — and that was consistent throughout the five counties.
Whether it’s finding a permanent fix for DACA recipients or their parents about their ability to live and work in the country, or — at the state and local levels — addressing access to essential services like health care or qualifying for a business license, there are many policies that can be viewed as addressing “immigration.” Politicians, policymakers and community leaders should not lose sight of this critical issue as they think about engaging Latinos in the months ahead.
Another thing we learned from these conversations is that Latinas and Latinos in the area we cover are enthusiastic about voting, with more than 8 in 10 saying they plan to vote in the June primary and November general elections. Again, that is consistent across all five counties. If campaigns and candidates take the time to engage this important voting block and give them a good reason to vote, maybe Latinos will come out and participate in the election with this level of enthusiasm.
These informal phone conversations are in addition to the formal research that our sister organization, Voces Unidas de las Montañas, which publishes the nonpartisan Colorado Latino Policy Agenda, an annual report based on one of the largest polls of Latino voters in Colorado.
Given the work that we do, I’m often asked “what are the issues your community cares about?” What I tell people is that, first, Latino voters are not a monolith, and second, that they should go ask them, as that’s what we do.
Now that we have the data from our most recent outreach, I’m sharing it in hopes that it can serve as the starting point for those conversations.
Alex Sánchez is the founder and CEO of Voces Unidas Action Fund, a Latino-created, Latino-led non-profit organization working in Summit, Lake, Eagle, Pitkin, and Garfield counties. This guest column was first published in The Aspen Times.