by Sam Shirazi
Given the small sample size of Hispanics in these exit polls, neither likely gives a very good picture of exactly what happened.
But there is not a single precinct with significant Hispanic population that Youngkin won, which seems like a prerequisite for him winning them.
The precinct data is pretty clear that McAulife won Hispanics: a VPAP analysis of 11 Fairfax precincts that are at least 40% Hispanic shows McAuliffe got 70% of the vote in those precincts.
The more reasonable take by Republicans is that Youngkin did not win Hispanics, but it is likely true that Youngkin improved with Hispanic voters, as he did with almost every other group of voters.
Of course, this oversimplifies things, because the real story was a drop in Hispanic turnout, as opposed to big gains among Youngkin. In every precinct with a large Hispanic population, there was relatively low turnout compared to 2017.
For example, Grayson precinct in Prince William County has voting age population that is 51% Hispanic, 24% African-American, and only 16.5% White. It voted 77% Northam In 2021 and voted 67% McAuliffe in 2021. Given increased Democratic early voting in 2021, not captured in precinct level results, this likely means small swing to Youngkin.
This doesn’t sound great for Democrats, but it doesn’t sound that bad, right? Well the real answer becomes clear when looking at the relative turnout of the precinct. Less than 1/3 of voters turned out in Grayson precinct, and relative turnout compared to 2017 was much lower than the Virginia average, which means a lot of voters stayed home.
The nearby, more rural, precinct of Brentsville had nearly 2/3 turnout, almost twice Grayson’s. Brentsville is 79% white and voted for Youngkin with 77% of the vote.
This means Youngkin didn’t have some great breakthrough with Hispanics and other minorities, so much as that many just stayed home while he was able to get his voters out. This pattern is repeated among precincts with a big increase in rural turnout, and a drop in minority turnout. So Democrats didn’t lose minorities in 2021, but didn’t get enough out to vote.
In 2022, Hispanics and other minorities could make the difference in key races such as in Virginia’s 2nd and 7th Congressional Districts. There needs to be a reason given for these voters to turn out, by highlighting all the results Democrats have delivered – from the infrastructure law that is helping Virginia to the child tax credit which cut childhood poverty. Democrats should also reach out to minority communities with native language communication and engagement with local organizations and activists.
The lesson of 2021 is don’t take voters for granted and give them a reason to turn out for you. Democrats need to apply that lesson in 2022 to be successful.