Posted on February 27, 2020

Latino Support for Trump Is Real

Kristian Ramos, The Atlantic, February 17, 2020

President Donald Trump has done almost everything he can to anger Latino voters. And yet, his support among this crucial portion of the electorate remains surprisingly consistent. After the 2016 election, exit polls analyzed by the Pew Research Center showed that 28 percent of Latino voters supported Trump; today, 30 percent support him.

This percentage may not seem high. But consider what the number means for the Democrats: Displeasure with the president over the past three years has not led to an increase in support for the opposing party.

Democrats lost the 2016 election with about 66 percent of the Latino vote. Today 65 percent of registered Latino voters who are Democrats have a positive view of the party’s presidential candidates. Based on exit polling from the past three election cycles, I estimate that Democrats need about 70 percent of this vote to take back the White House.Having worked at the Congressional Hispanic Caucus during the Obama administration, I am firmly aware of the power of the Latino vote, and so I have been watching these numbers with alarm. When Democrats reach out to Latino voters, they are too focused on immigration, and say too little about other issues these voters prioritize. {snip}In an election that will likely come down to the smallest margins of victory, the consistent support for Trump from a small, but vocal, subset of Latino voters is a real threat to Democrats. {snip}

The president’s treatment of immigrants at the border is inhumane and wildly unpopular with Latinos. And yet, his support among this voting bloc is not cratering. In fact, he enjoys more support from this electorate than Mitt Romney did in 2012, and about the same level that John McCain did in 2008.

Being able to provide for one’s family is one of the main reasons many people—from any country—immigrate to the United States, so the fact that Trump’s rhetoric on a growing economy has found an audience is not surprising. In Florida, for example, a poll by Equis Research showed that 57 percent of Latinos supported the way the president handled the economy. If you look at only Cuban voters from the state, that number jumps to 71 percent.{snip}According to a Pew Research Center report, “The closer they are to their immigrant roots, the more likely Americans with Hispanic ancestry are to identify as Hispanic.” Complicating matters further, the report notes, a long-standing high intermarriage rate and a decade of declining Latin American immigration … are distancing some Americans with Hispanic ancestry from the life experiences of earlier generations, reducing the likelihood they call themselves Latino.”

First- and second-generation American Latinos have strong ties to their immigrant heritage. However, the third generation only self-identifies as Latino 77 percent of the time. By the fourth generation or after, only half of U.S. adults with Latino ancestry say they are Latino.

These voters no longer align their cultural identity with immigrants, and immigration as an issue is less important to them. {snip}