President Donald Trump’s flourishing support among Latino voters is making Joe Biden’s path to victory this November all the more difficult.
A slew of new polls from both the national level and prime swing states indicates that the incumbent is not only outperforming his 2016 numbers among Latinos, but appears to poised to receive the highest share of the demographic since 2004. The trend, which has been noticeable for several weeks, was exhibited over the past week in two different polls.
The first, conducted by Emerson University between August 30 and August 31 by surveying 1,576 registered voters, found that in a head-to-head matchup, Trump was favored by 37 percent of Latinos, compared to 60 percent for Biden. Similarly, a poll conducted by Quinnipiac University and released last week found the commander-in-chief taking 36 percent of the Latino vote nationally to the former vice president’s 56 percent. That poll, conducted between August 28 and August 31, surveyed 1,081 likely voters nationwide.
Although both of the polls were conducted shortly after the close of the Republican National Convention, their results closely mirror those found in a Pew Research study released in mid-August. At the time, Pew found that Trump polled at 35 percent among Hispanic voters to Biden’s 63 percent.
If accurate, the results do not bode well for Biden and Democrats. In 2016, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton received 66 percent support among Latinos voters, compared to Trump’s 28 percent, according to exit polls from the race. Although the figure seems high, it was lower than the 71 percent that former President Barack Obama received among the demographic in 2017. The drop-off in support, coupled with Trump’s populist appeals to blue-collar voters, was significant enough to deny Clinton victory in the electoral college.
Now some high-profile Democrats appear concerned that history is set to repeat itself. Former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro raised the specter last month, telling Axios on HBO that while he was hopeful Democrats would retake the White House this November, there was a real possibility the party could lose ground among Latinos.
“I think that we could win the battle and lose the war,” Castro said. “We could win in November, but you could see a potential slide of Latino support for Democrats.”
Biden’s problems with Latino voters have been evident, not only at the national level, but also in swing states that Democrats need to win if they have any hope of victory.
For instance, an NBC/Marist College poll released on Tuesday has the former vice president trailing the incumbent handily among Latinos in Florida. The poll, conducted between August 31 and September 6, found that Trump led among the demographic with 50 percent support to Biden’s 46 percent. Even though the margin is small, the results are surprising, given that Clinton received 62 percent of Florida’s Latino vote to Trump’s 35 percent in 2016.
Even though the NBC/Marist poll shows Biden and Trump tied statewide at 48 percent each among likely voters, it would be difficult for Biden to win the state with such widespread defections among his core base. In Florida, there are more than 3.14 million eligible Latino voters (20.5 percent of the state’s voting population), many of whom reside in heavily-Democratic counties Biden must win handily to carry the state. Given that Clinton prevailed among the demographic in 2016, but still went on to lose the state by nearly 290,000 votes, Biden would have to make up the deficit among voters that generally lean Republican, such as seniors and suburbanites.
More troubling, though, is that the former vice president’s standing in the Sunshine State appears to be worse upon closer inspection. A poll released by the Miami Herald on Tuesday found Biden underperforming in Miami-Dade County, a heavily Democratic area that is key to the party’s efforts to win the state. The poll indicates that in a head-to-head matchup, Biden receives 55 percent among the county’s voters, compared to 38 percent for Trump. Four years prior, Clinton crushed Trump in the county, 63 percent to 33 percent.
Biden’s poor performance in the county seems to be driven by its large Cuban-American population. The Herald poll indicates that 73 percent of Cuban-Americans in Miami-Dade County have a favorable opinion of Trump, compared to 23 percent unfavorable. Meanwhile, only 32 percent of Cuban-Americans view the former vice president favorably, while 63 percent do not. Moreover, among the county’s Hispanic voters in general, Trump has a stronger approval rating (53 percent favorable to 44 percent unfavorable) than Biden (47 percent favorable to 44 percent unfavorable).
The results in Miami-Dade County appear mirrored across the state, at least according to a poll commissioned by Unite the Country, a leading pro-Biden Super PAC. The poll, which was also made public on Tuesday, found 56 percent of Cuban-Americans across Florida held a favorable view of Trump, compared to 42 percent unfavorable. Among the demographic, the incumbent leads the Democrat nominee by 18 percentage points.
Florida is not the only prime battleground in which Biden is lagging compared to prior Democrat nominees when it comes to the Latino vote. A recent poll from Pennsylvania shows Biden garnering only 59 percent to Trump’s 28 percent among the state’s Hispanic population. In 2016, on the other hand, Clinton carried 74 percent to Trump’s 21 percent, while still managing to lose the state by more than 50,000 votes.
More interesting, however, is the impact that Biden’s poor standing among Latinos, as evidenced by national polling, will register in states that have large Hispanic populations, but have not engendered much attention because they are thought to be safe for Democrats. Nevada, Colorado, and New Mexico, in particular, were considered prime swing states in 2016 before falling off the 2020 radar. In each of the states, Latino voters make up a substantial portion of eligible voters, topping off at more than 42 percent in New Mexico. Given that Clinton carried some of the states only marginally a clear shift away from Biden among Hispanics could easily put them in play.
It is unclear how the Biden campaign plans to stabilize its position among Latinos and prevent such an outcome. A hint, though, may have emerged last month, when the former vice president’s campaign began spending heavily to reserve ad time in Nevada and Colorado ahead of the general election.