Immigration, Latinos, and White Partisan Politics: The New Democratic Defection


  • The authors would like to thank Shaun Bowler, Scott Desposato, Karen Ferree, James Gimpel, Rodney Hero, Seth Hill, Jennifer Hochschild, Gary Jacobson, Martin Johnson, Thad Kousser, David Leal, Jeff Lewis, Justin Phillips, Jessica Trounstine, Nicholas Valentino, Tom Wong, and participants at seminars at UC Berkeley, UC Davis, UC Irvine, Harvard University, and PRIEC for their insightful comments on earlier versions of the article. All replication data can be found in the AJPS Data Archive on Dataverse (


Immigration is profoundly changing the racial demographics of America. In this article, we seek to understand if and how immigration and increasing racial diversity are shaping the partisan politics of individual white Americans. We show that whites’ views on immigration and Latinos are strongly related to their core political identities and vote choices. Using a range of different surveys, we find that, all else equal, whites with more anti-immigrant views or more negative views of Latinos are less apt to identify as Democrats and less likely to favor Democratic candidates. This rightward shift harkens back to an earlier period of white defection from the Democratic Party and highlights the enduring but shifting impact of race on American politics.