Why Cubans & Puerto Ricans tend to be more conservative in the US.

Last updated on:

Jun 9, 2023 | Culture, Politics

Puerto Ricans and Cubans are often viewed as more politically conservative compared to other major Hispanic populations in the United States. This conservative leaning stems from several key factors tied to their histories and immigrant experiences:

Anti-Communist Sentiment

Both Puerto Ricans and Cubans have deep anti-communist views rooted in experience with socialist regimes back home. Cubans fled Fidel Castro’s communist revolution, leading to strongly negative perceptions of leftist policies. Puerto Rico had an influential pro-independence socialist movement in the 1950s-60s that was rejected by the mainstream. These political backgrounds engender skepticism of liberal policies deemed socialist.

Refugee Identity

Cubans strongly relate to their past as political refugees fleeing a repressive regime. This shapes an anti-leftist stance. Conservative policies are seen as safeguarding the liberties denied in communist Cuba. Puerto Ricans don’t have the same refugee identity, but many migrated to escape poor economic conditions and political unrest, leading to similar conservative leanings.

Religion

Both populations are predominantly Catholic, a more traditional and conservative religious background. Cuban and Puerto Rican values around issues like abortion and gay marriage tend to skew conservative in line with Catholic doctrine. The Church remains influential in both communities.

Business Ownership

Cuban-Americans and Puerto Ricans have high rates of small business ownership and entrepreneurship. This self-reliance fosters wariness of taxes, regulation and other liberal economic policies that can impact businesses. Conservatism supports free enterprise.

Generational Status

As U.S. territories, Puerto Rico and Cuba foster stronger ties to American identity even before migrating. This facilitates faster assimilation to mainstream U.S. values versus immigrants from fully foreign nations. Newer generations in particular gravitate conservative.

Geographical Concentration

Heavily based in Florida, Cuban-Americans hold significant sway in a critical swing state, increasing their political influence. Puerto Ricans are concentrated in the Northeast, another more moderate/conservative leaning region. Geographic isolation from the Southwest liberalism.

Race Perceptions

Despite Hispanic ethnicity, Cubans and Puerto Ricans often view themselves as “white” in contrast to mestizo identities of other Latin American immigrants. This shapes political views in a more conservative direction aligned with white America.

Paths to Citizenship

As U.S. citizens by birth, Puerto Ricans have no immigration hurdles. Cubans enjoy special expedited paths to citizenship unavailable to most other Hispanics. This facilitates integration and conservative political leanings.
While Puerto Ricans and Cubans skew more conservative, this nonetheless creates some tensions and divisions politically versus other U.S. Hispanic populations:

Competition for Political Influence

Cuban and Puerto Ricans’ conservative stance sets them apart from the broader Hispanic community, seen as more liberal. This can spark competition for political influence and leadership within the Latino electorate.

Alignment with GOP

Shared conservative views lead Cubans and Puerto Ricans to align more often with the Republican party, in contrast to the strong Democratic leanings of most other Hispanics. This partisan split can foster divisions.

Immigration Policy Disputes

Conservative opposition to illegal immigration and perceived reluctance to support DREAM Act or paths to citizenship for undocumented Hispanics angers more liberal immigrant groups from Mexico and Central America.

Perceived Elitism

Other Hispanics may resent the favorable treatment Cubans receive in immigration, citizenship and government assistance, seen as conferring unfair advantages. This breeds perceptions of cubanos as elitist and disconnected.

Economic Policy Divides

Conservative pro-business stances and lower support for expanding social safety net programs like welfare put Cuban and Puerto Rican politics at odds with working class Hispanic immigrants.

Lack of Solidarity

The conservative Cuban and Puerto Rican establishment is perceived as out of touch when it comes to expressing solidarity and advancing causes important to liberal Hispanic activists and working class immigrant communities.

Rival Political Leadership

High-profile conservative Cuban and Puerto Rican politicians like Sens. Cruz and Rubio are disliked by liberal Hispanic activist groups and seen as betraying the broader Latino community’s progressive agenda.

Racial Justice Issues

Cuban and Puerto Rican conservatives are perceived as less attentive to issues of racism, racial profiling, and discrimination impacting Mexicans and darker-skinned Latin American immigrants.

Culture Wars

Conservative views on sexuality, gender norms and religion alienate younger, more socially liberal Hispanics. Inter-generational divides result. While generalizations do not apply universally, Puerto Ricans’ and Cubans’ right-leaning political stances foster real rifts and tensions with other segments of the U.S. Hispanic population. These divisions have implications for partisan political mobilization and can inhibit formation of a unified Latino voting bloc. Nuanced understanding of Hispanic diversity remains critical to political engagement.

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