Democrats fall flat with ‘Latinx’ language

Source: Politico | December 6, 2021 | Marc Caputo and Sabrina Rodriguez

“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?” said one pollster.

As Democrats seek to reach out to Latino voters in a more gender-neutral way, they’ve increasingly begun using the word Latinx, a term that first began to get traction among academics and activists on the left.

But that very effort could be counterproductive in courting those of Latin American descent, according to a new nationwide poll of Hispanic voters.

Only 2 percent of those polled refer to themselves as Latinx, while 68 percent call themselves “Hispanic” and 21 percent favored “Latino” or “Latina” to describe their ethnic background, according to the survey from Bendixen & Amandi International, a top Democratic firm specializing in Latino outreach.

More problematic for Democrats: 40 percent said Latinx bothers or offends them to some degree and 30 percent said they would be less likely to support a politician or organization that uses the term.

At a time when Republicans appear to be making inroads among Latino voters, the survey results raise questions about how effectively the party is communicating with them, according to pollster Fernand Amandi and other Democrats and Latino vote experts.

“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 advised Barack Obama’s successful Hispanic outreach nationwide in his two presidential campaigns. “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?”

Amandi emphasized that he wasn’t blaming the erosion of Latino support for Democrats merely on the use of the word Latinx. Hispanic voters have started shifting right for myriad reasons, he said, chiefly because of more aggressive engagement from Republicans who have “weaponized culture war issues at the margins with Hispanic voters.”

But as some on the left began embracing the term Latinx in politics, it started to expose a fault line in the party between moderate traditionalists and the more activist progressive base. Those embracing Latinx have explained that the word — and the trend of making Spanish words gender-inclusive by ending them in an X — is not a product of the U.S. left or white elites, but instead, can be traced back to Latin America and Latinos. It’s also an alternative to Hispanic, a term also criticized for its ties to Spain, which colonized much of Latin America.

While activists and academics for the past decade have actively supported and adopted Latinx, it has only been in recent years that the term has grown in prominence and drawn pushback from those opposed to its usage as an alternative that doesn’t follow the gender binary in the Spanish language.


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