Almost half of Democrats in the 116th Congress have used the progressive neologism "Latinx" on social media, a new analysis from the Pew Research Center shows, a doubling of its use since the last session alone.
"Latinx" is the fastest-growing term for people of Hispanic origin among Democrats who used any of the terms on Twitter or Facebook, with 47 percent of Democrats using it during the 2019/2020 period, versus 6 percent two congressional sessions ago. By comparison, the share using terms like "Latino" or "Hispanic" has held approximately constant; adjusting for the share using any of the terms, the number of Democrats using the term "Latino" actually fell.
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Democrats' use of "Latinx" substantially outpaces not only Republicans—of whom 1 percent use the term—but also actual Latinos, just 3 percent of whom self-identify as "Latinx" and just a quarter of whom have even heard the term, Pew previously found.
This disparity between elected progressives' word choice and the terms preferred by the people to whom they are referring paints a stark picture of the politics of such language. In particular, while proponents of the term "Latinx" consider it more inclusive, its use largely by elites suggests a top-down imposition on the preferences of actual Hispanic people in the United States.
"Latinx," Pew notes in its report, is a "gender-neutral or nonbinary term" that "has emerged as a pan-ethnic alternative to Latino, Latina and Hispanic in recent years." But this "emergence" seems to have largely missed actual Hispanic people, 76 percent of whom have never heard the term.
It did not, however, miss the Democratic caucus. The 136 members of the 116th Congress who have used the term "Latinx" represent 30 states and 41 percent of the nation's Hispanic population. Hispanic members of Congress are in general more likely to have used the term: Sixty-nine percent of Hispanic Democrats have done so, as have 13 percent of Hispanic Republicans.
The widespread adoption among congressional Democrats mirrors the take-up of "Latinx" within other bastions of power and privilege. Prominent news outlets such as the New York Times and Washington Post routinely use the term, as do major tech firms such as Google and Microsoft. Prestigious universities including Harvard and Penn offer degrees in "Latinx" studies.
Perhaps recognizing its unpopularity, however, 2020 nominee Joe Biden has preferred "Latino" and "Latina" in his public remarks, a preference mirrored by speakers at last week's Democratic National Convention. That pivot has not propagated into the Democratic party's left wing: Rep. Ilhan Omar (D., Minn.) used the term as recently as Aug. 3, for example.