On January 20th, President Trump tweeted that his approval number with Hispanic-Americans had increased to 50%. He had been citing a Marist poll. Because of the ongoing government shutdown, most of this poll’s other results were dismal, which made it easy for Democrats to dismiss as an outlier.
Wow, just heard that my poll numbers with Hispanics has gone up 19%, to 50%. That is because they know the Border issue better than anyone, and they want Security, which can only be gotten with a Wall.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 20, 2019
According to Pew Research Center, in 2020, Hispanics will make up the largest minority group in the American electorate. Pew estimates that “32 million Hispanics will be eligible to vote—a full 2 million more than eligible black voters and more than 13 percent of the electorate.” And these numbers are expected to grow steadily.
It’s likely the 50% approval figure Trump had touted last month was on the high side, but even Democrats admit that he is gaining popularity among Hispanics. Further progress with this demographic could pay dividends for Trump in 2020.
A Latino Decisions poll taken prior to the 2016 election showed Trump with 18% of the Hispanic vote. Exit polls and other studies showed the actual figure to be 28%. Looks like some of them were embarrassed to tell pollsters the truth.
Politico contributor and political analyst David Bernstein reported that Trump, who is aware of his increasing popularity among Hispanics, is making an aggressive play for their support in Florida and beyond. He emphasizes the importance of even small increases in Hispanic support. “If Hillary Clinton had improved her share of the Hispanic vote by just 3 percentage points in Florida (from 62 percent to 65 percent of the Hispanic vote) and Michigan (from 59 percent to 62 percent), she would have won both states and their combined 45 Electoral College votes.”
Bernstein, a Democrat, says here’s the brutal truth for Democrats:
If Hispanic Americans are in fact showing surging approval of Trump, he could be on his way to matching or exceeding the 40 percent won by George W. Bush in 2004. If Trump does 12 percentage points better than his 2016 numbers with the growing Hispanic vote, it pretty much takes Florida, Arizona, Georgia and North Carolina off the table for Democrats, who would need to sweep Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin to reach the 270 electoral college votes needed to win the White House. At the same time, that 12-point shift would give Trump a clear shot at winning Colorado and Nevada, states where Hispanic voters make up well over 10 percent of the electorate and where Clinton won by 5 percentage points or less in 2016.
A new POLITICO/Morning Consult poll shows Trump with Hispanic approval of 42%. Most other polls show him in the mid-30% range. This number stood at or above 40% for most of 2016. When you consider that pre-2016 election polls showed Trump with 18% and he won the election with 28%, an average Hispanic approval rating of 35% or better could reelect him.
How can Trump be gaining ground with Hispanics when he campaigns tirelessly for a border wall? There are several reasons for this.
Bernstein points out that 2/3 of Hispanic-Americans were born in the US and are are “becoming politically more and more like non-Hispanic white Americans.” He also says that many Hispanic-Americans are young, therefore they vote like young non-Hispanic white Americans, many of whom lean liberal. So their support for Democrats has more to do with their age than their ethnicity.
Approximately 50% of Hispanic-Americans are Catholics (and another 25% are former Catholics). They tend to be less liberal than most other Democrats and are less likely to support abortion, especially late-term abortion.
Bernstein says that Trump’s “targeted appeal to Cuban-Americans in Florida by vocally supporting the overthrow of Nicolás Maduro,” likely strengthened his support.
He adds that “Hispanic approval of congressional Democrats, and of Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer individually, is poor.” Democratic lawmakers have been unable to pass legislation to help protect Dreamers, although they always promise to do so on the campaign trail.
Finally, the economy is strong and Hispanic unemployment is at an historic low. (Bernstein attributes this to Obama. I don’t think so.)
This is an encouraging development indeed. Democrats are starting to notice. Traditionally, Democrats have been able to “count on” drawing a large majority of Hispanic-American support. But that may be changing. Although the shift has been far from seismic, it just might be enough to sway the election. Trump recognizes the opportunity here and he and his team will work to drive these numbers higher still.