(NewsNation) — Lydia Dominguez is proud of her Latino roots. She was born in Mexico, moved to El Paso, joined the Air Force and now lives in Las Vegas with her two sons.
For most of her life, Dominguez identified as a Democrat — she voted for former President Barack Obama twice.
“I remember when I was a little kid and I asked my mom, ‘What is a Democrat and what is a Republican?'” Dominguez told NewsNation. “She turned around and looked at me and said, ‘Mija, the Democrats are for poor people and the Republicans are for rich people and we are poor so we are Democrats.'”
However, like other Latino voters, Dominguez is beginning to shift her views, now leaning more conservative. The change didn’t happen overnight, though. It came when Dominguez started looking at her beliefs on issues such as abortion, which she doesn’t agree with, and gender.
Concern about the economy and high taxes also caused Dominguez to start moving to the right politically.
“I didn’t know I was conservative until I really looked at myself and my values, and said I don’t believe in this,” she said. “I don’t believe in this movement anymore.”
In a new poll from the New York Times and Siena College, it’s clear that the economy is the top issue for Latino and Latina voters — but they’re basically split on which party they think can fix it.
Lorena Cardenas is planning to vote for the Republicans in the midterms.
“Growing up in the minority group with Hispanics, I did see a lot of poverty, a lot of people were on welfare, and I noticed that was a huge incentive to keep voting Democrat,” Cardenas said. “Yet it was all the Democrat policies that were very much contradicting the way our values were aligned.”
A poll from the New York Times shows most Latinos will still vote for Democrats — but the margin is shrinking. Although a majority of Hispanic voters, (56%) still plan to vote for Democrats in the fall, the party is faring “far worse” with this demographic than in the years before the 2020 election, the New York Times noted.
Judith Whitmer, chair of the Nevada Democratic Party, said a common mistake both political parties have made in the past is assuming certain demographics are loyal to them, and taking them for granted.
Whitmer agrees that the economy — specifically record-high inflation — is causing people to change parties.
“I think anytime that happens the current administration takes the major blame for that, when the reality is there is a whole series of things that cause inflation,” Whitmer said.
However, Dominguez said while the economy was a part of her decision to become a Republican, it’s not the only reason. She says she had felt disrespected by the Democrats on social issues, such as the use of the word “Latinx.” The word has been used as a gender-neutral alternative for Latino and Latina.
“I think the Latinx thing was really weird and not appropriate,” Dominguez said. “I think they think we are ignorant. I think they treat us as children at times with little kitten gloves and they don’t treat us with the respect we deserve.”
Political analyst Kevin Madden, a former campaign spokesperson for Mitt Romney, said Latino voters are motivated by a broad range of issues.
“They’re not immune from conversations about woke, progressive policies that are all about gender identification, or all about other areas of identification,” Madden said. “So when those conversations start to come to the forefront of the political dialogue, there are many Hispanic voters that tend to shy away from the left and tend to be more motivated to listen to Republicans or conservatives.”
Both parties, in aggressively courting this demographic, are signaling how important they are “when it comes to managing the margins of majorities in the House and Senate,” Madden added.
“I think they’re gaining power and the more that they organize their voice and the more that they organize their community leaders, I think they’re going to continue to really have a strong say in the direction of many of the policies in the country,” he said.