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OPINION: Report says Congressional Democrats speak more Spanish than their GOP counterparts

Sixty-four Democratic representatives regularly use Spanish, while only 10 Republican representatives do the same

Congressional Democrats more likely to speak to Latino constituents in Spanish than their GOP counterparts
Los congresistas demócratas son más propensos a hablar en español con sus electores latinos | Shutterstock

May 11, 2022 3:18pm

Updated: May 20, 2022 11:54am

As American voters prepare to head to the polls for November’s midterm elections, a new poll numbers have sent shockwaves across Democratic field offices as the data reveals an unprecedented drop in Latino support for progressive candidates.

But as Latinos – who make up nearly 19% of U.S. voters -- move between party lines, a new report from the Hispanic Council has shown that some politicians are better at engaging Latino voters than others and Democrats have done a better job of addressing their Spanish-speaking constituents in their native language than their Republican counterparts.

According to the report, the number of U.S. representatives who regularly use Spanish to communicate with their Latino constituents has grown by 21% in the last four years – rising from 62 representatives in 2018 to 74 in 2022. Within the Democratic party, this means that 64 representatives regularly use Spanish, while only 10 Republican representatives do the same.

Similarly, the number of U.S. senators who regularly use Spanish to communicate with their Latino constituents doubled since 2018 and a total of 27 senators actively speak Spanish on the job. Within the Democratic party, this means that 22 senators regularly use Spanish, while only 5 Republican senators do the same.

Ultimately, these numbers are unsurprising when one considers the number of Latinos who currently serve in the U.S. Congress. In the House, there are currently 41 Latino members and 74 congressmen regularly use Spanish. Meanwhile, in the Senate there are currently 6 Latino senators and 28 members regularly communicate in Spanish.

Per the ranking, these are the representatives who use the most Spanish on the job:

  • Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA)
  • Jesús “Chuy” García (D-IL)
  • Raul Grijalva (D-AZ)
  • Albio Sires (D-NJ)
  • Nanette Barragán (D-CA)
  • Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY)
  • Veronica Escobar (D-TX)
  • Debbie Lesko (R-AZ)
  • Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL)
  • Carlos Gimenez (R-FL)

In terms of the Senate, the following members came out on top:

  • Bob Menendez (D-NJ)
  • Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY)
  • Alex Padilla (D-CA)
  • Cory Booker (D-NJ)
  • Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV)
  • Marco Rubio (R-FL)
  • John Cornyn (R-TX)
  • Bill Cassidy (R-LA)

Ultimately, it is not surprising to see Democratic lawmakers dominate the rankings – but as Latinos continue to venture over to the political right, Republicans should consider engaging their newest constituents in their native tongue.

Currently, Latinos are flocking to the GOP in record numbers.  

According to an April Marist poll, Latino support for Democratic candidates fell from 54% to 39% since September of 2021. Support for republicans, on the other hand, doubled from 28% to 52%. Similarly, when asked if they approve or disapprove of President Biden’s job performance, a mere 32% of Latinos responded positively while 54% said they disapproved.

These latest results appear to mirror several polls conducted over the past year which show that the American political landscape appears to be undergoing a tectonic shift – especially within the Latino community.

The Democratic party, however, has witnessed a PR disaster in recent years and their messaging to the Latino community has generally backfired – especially through the use of the progressive “Latinx” term.

In the end, speaking in Spanish isn’t enough – the messaging matters, too.

According to a December 2021 poll from Bendixen & Amandi International, a Democratic firm specializing in Latino outreach, a mere 2 percent of those polled refer to themselves as Latinx, while 68 percent call themselves “Hispanic” and 21 percent favored “Latino” or “Latina.”

Furthermore, the survey found that 40 percent of those polled said Latinx bothers or offends them while 30 percent said they would be less likely to support a politician or organization that uses the term.

For Democrats like Elizabeth Warren, Julián Castro and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez — who have adopted and regularly use the term to reach out to Hispanic voters – this comes as a hard pill to swallow. 

“The numbers suggest that using Latinx is a violation of the political Hippocratic Oath, which is to first do no electoral harm,” said Amandi, whose firm helped the Obama administration win the Hispanic vote in 2008 and 2012. “Why are we using a word that is preferred by only 2 percent, but offends as many as 40 percent of those voters we want to win?”