Somos Más: How Racial Threat and Anger Mobilized Latino Voters in the Trump Era

Published date01 December 2019
Date01 December 2019
AuthorMatt A. Barreto,Angela Gutierrez,Gary Segura,Angela X. Ocampo
Subject MatterMini-Symposium: Identity Politics and the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election
/tmp/tmp-18sdqFkO07XJ1i/input 844327PRQXXX10.1177/1065912919844327Political Research QuarterlyGutierrez et al.
Mini-Symposium: Identity Politics and the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election
Political Research Quarterly
2019, Vol. 72(4) 960 –975
Somos Más: How Racial Threat and
© 2019 University of Utah
Article reuse guidelines:
Anger Mobilized Latino Voters in the
DOI: 10.1177/1065912919844327
Trump Era
Angela Gutierrez1, Angela X. Ocampo2 , Matt A. Barreto1,
and Gary Segura1
While evidence from California suggests that group threat mobilizes Latinos, nationally, there has never been a test
case for this theory. In 2016, the Trump campaign provided a clear case of group threat through his divisive rhetoric
and policy proposals targeting Mexican Americans and immigrants. Using the 2016 Collaborative Multi-Racial Post-
Election Survey (CMPS) data, we find evidence that Latino voters were politically motivated by Trump’s anti-Latino
rhetoric. We hypothesize that Latino voters who perceive Latinos as a racialized group and feel a sense of immigrant-
linked fate are more likely to hold negative views toward the Republican candidate, and feel angry during the 2016
election. We further find that Latino voters who were angry were more likely to engage in political activities such
as donating to campaigns, contacting government officials, and protesting during and shortly after the 2016 election.
The findings hold for U.S. born Latinos as well as among non-Mexican Latinos who felt similarly targeted by Trump’s
rhetoric and proposals.
Latino, threat, identity, anger
In 2016, Donald Trump’s campaign provided a clear
case of group threat through his divisive rhetoric and pol-
While evidence from California seems to confirm the
icy proposals. We argue that beyond California, and
hypothesis that group threat mobilizes Latinos, nation-
beyond Mexican Americans, the Trump campaign
ally, there has never been a test case for this theory.
increased the saliency of a racialized Latino identity.
Pantoja, Ramirez, and Segura’s (2001) article, “Citizens
Many Latinos viewed his campaign as a panethnic attack
by Choice, Voters by Necessity” points to mobilization
on all Latinos in the United States. While Mexican
effects in California as a response to state-level political
Americans were the target of much of Trump’s rhetoric,
threat as compared with Texas and Florida. Other works
we believe other Latinos with a sense of racialized Latino
have documented the anti-immigrant climate in identity and immigrant-linked fate also viewed Trump’s
California1 and suggested political mobilizing effects.
remarks and campaign as a threat and were angered by
However, nearly every study on group threat and mobili-
his rhetoric. Using data from 2016, our findings suggest
zation since Pantoja et al. (2001) has focused on California
that U.S.-born Latinos as well as non-Mexican Latinos
(e.g., Bowler, Nicholson, and Segura 2006), or has only
with heightened immigrant-linked fate and racialized
found strong effects in California (Ramirez 2013). identity felt similarly targeted by Trump’s rhetoric and
Furthermore, recent research argues that Latinos in
proposals, which, in turn, resulted in lower support for
California were predisposed to support the Democratic
the Republican candidate.
Party, and the increase in Democratic partisanship and
mobilization of the nineties were not necessarily the
result of group-based threat, raising concerns that there
University of California, Los Angeles, USA
2University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, USA
was no mobilizing effect (Hui and Sears 2018). In this
paper, we seek to test whether anti-immigrant threat is
Corresponding Author:
felt at a national level by Latinos of different origins, and
Angela Gutierrez, Department of Political Science, University of
California, Los Angeles, 4289 Bunche Hall, Los Angeles, CA 90095,
generations, and if threat mobilizes beyond the specific
context of California.

Gutierrez et al.
During a 2016 focus group in Florida with Puerto
people of Latin American origin (Mora 2014). Scholars
Rican2 registered voters, a moderator asked the 10 partici-
have long debated the appropriateness of panethnic iden-
pants to describe Donald Trump.3 Half of the respondents
tifiers to categorize such a diverse group, arguing in some
said “racist.” They were asked, “Why do you think he is
instances that they will be able to assimilate into white-
racist?” The participants offered some variation of “he
ness and in other instances that the group itself is too
wants to deport all Mexicans.” The moderator then fol-
diverse for the panethnic term to hold meaning (Beltran
lowed-up, “Do you think he is only talking about Mexicans
2010; Citrin and Sears 2014; Perlmann 2005). Whether or
then or all Latinos?” Without hesitation, all participants
not people ascribe to panethnic identities is a valid ques-
responded that Trump is referring to all Latinos, to all
tion given that, racially, they are classified as white and
immigrants. They surmised he was using Mexicans as an
may more strongly identify with their national origin.
example because they are largest in size, and because of
This issue is exacerbated when we consider intragroup
the southern border, but he was not racist against just
discrimination on the basis of national origin and assimi-
Mexicans, but all Latinos, including Puerto Ricans.
lation in the United States (Lavariega Monforti, and
Two days later, the same moderator interviewed 10
Sanchez 2010). We argue that the racialization of Latinos
Republican Cuban American voters in Florida. The mod-
in the United States will serve to increase the salience and
erator followed a similar script as with the Puerto Rican
significance of a panethnic identity in the United States.
voters, and a nearly identical discussion followed. When
Panethnic identifiers are more commonly used in the
asked if Trump liked Cubans more than Mexicans, one par-
United States than other Latin American countries, so
ticipant said, “He is against all Latin immigrants. He thinks
while a person may readily identify as Mexican American
we are all Mexicans anyway, if you have an accent, if you
or Cuban American, their affinity toward Latino identity
have brown skin, then you are a criminal, or a rapist and
may be tempered. However, for those who identify as
Trump wants to deport you.” In the focus group of conser-
Latino, when faced with group stigmatization, there are
vative Cuban Americans, all agreed that Trump’s rhetoric
many ways in which they may seek to mitigate the nega-
was offensive to all Latinos, not just Mexican Americans.
tive effects. Social identity theory, for instance, argues
What explains this anecdotal evidence of Latino
that individuals aim to hold a positive self-image, but
immigrant-linked fate and panethnic solidarity? By rec-
when they feel that their identity is in a disadvantaged or
ognizing that Trump’s xenophobic rhetoric is meant to
inferior position, they may engage in behavior to improve
typecast all Latinos and immigrants as individuals who
their status and position (Tajfel and Turner 1979). Social
burden the United States rather than enhance it, Latinos
identity theory finds that there are many identity-manage-
of all nationalities are able to look past intragroup differ-
ment tools that individuals may try in order to feel better
ences in an attempt to eliminate a common threat. In this
about their status (Mummendey et al. 1999). These strate-
paper, we lay out a theory of group solidarity and immi-
gies may take the form of individual mobility, such as
grant-linked fate that argues that Trump made feelings of
leaving the ingroup to join the outgroup; recategoriza-
discrimination and linked fate salient among all group
tion, which operates by adopting a higher status identity
members. Many in the group whose sense of immigrant-
like American; social competition, in the form of seeking
linked fate and racialized identity were made salient in
to achieve a higher status for your group or reverse the
the 2016 election were more likely to dislike the
dominance roles; and realistic competition, which mani-
Republican candidate, and feel angry during the 2016
fests by trying to gain more material resources than the
election. While immigrant-linked fate and racialized
outgroup (Blanz et al. 1998; Mummendey et al. 1999).
identity may manifest separately, we think it is also prob-
We argue that individuals who believe Latinos have been
able that many people have a high sense of both. Whether
racialized and discriminated against or hold high levels of
together or independent, we expect Latinos who hold a
immigrant-linked fate are likely to engage in social com-
strong sense of immigrant-linked fate or racialized iden-
petition, a form of collective group behavior motivated to
tity, or more likely, a combination of the two will be
increase the social standing of the group (Blanz et al.
angered by the 2016 election. We hypothesize that this
anger lead to greater political participation among Latinos
A common thread throughout the history of Latin
in the United States.
Americans in the United States is the discrimination that
many have faced. Whether...

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