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Poll: Latinx voters are leaning Democratic in 2020 battleground states

They could be a force for Democrats next year, but the party needs to make sure its outreach keeps up.

A woman putting a paper ballot in a voting machine at a polling station.
Voters go to a polling station in the Boyle Heights section of Los Angeles, California, in 2016.
David McNew/Getty Images
Li Zhou is a politics reporter at Vox, where she covers Congress and elections. Previously, she was a tech policy reporter at Politico and an editorial fellow at the Atlantic.

A new poll of Latinx voters has some potentially good news for Democrats: According to the survey, voters in battleground states are souring on Trump and open to other options in 2020.

Whether that translates into an election-changing dynamic, however, remains to be seen. After all, the party hasn’t exactly had a great track record on executing successful Latinx mobilization strategies, and such efforts will be important to drive voters to the polls.

The survey, conducted by Equis Labs, an organization dedicated to studying the Latinx electorate, included more than 8,000 Latinx voters in several highly competitive states such as Arizona, North Carolina, and Florida.

Per the results, Latinx voters favor a Democratic candidate over Trump at this point in the election cycle, though that sentiment was more muted in certain states like Florida, where Republicans have historically had a strong foothold among Cuban Americans. Between 10 percent and 20 percent of voters across every state were also undecided.

A new survey finds that a majority of Latinx voters are interested in backing Democrats in 2020.
Equis Labs

Expected to make up 32 million voters nationwide in 2020, including 23 percent of eligible voters in Arizona, 20 percent in Florida, and 19 percent in Nevada, Latinx voters are a theoretically pivotal demographic for the upcoming election. The survey, however, cautions that they aren’t a uniformly Democratic voting bloc, unlike African American voters, for example, who tend to vote pretty overwhelmingly for Democrats. The universe of Latinx voters has historically been more ideologically diverse, driven by factors including religion.

If Democrats can mobilize them, these voters could be added to a toxic mix for Trump. The Latinx surge against Trump didn’t quite materialize in 2016, but Democrats saw much more promising signs in midterm turnout, a trend that could certainly continue in 2020.

Polling in battleground states suggests Latinx voters are less enthused about Trump than they were in 2016

Going into the 2016 election, Democratic strategists assumed that Latinx voters would be so turned off by Trump’s xenophobic rhetoric on immigration that more voters would turn out and some would abandon the Republican party, as NPR reported. These expectations wound up seeing mixed results.

Turnout among this demographic saw some changes between 2016 and 2012 but was ultimately lower than white, black, and Asian turnout. A solid fraction of Latinx voters, including a strong base in Florida, also backed Trump. Clinton wound up winning 66 percent of the Latinx vote, while Trump took 28 percent of it, according to a national exit poll. This breakdown is roughly in line with Latinx voters’ overall voter affiliation, though it has been contested by some polling experts.

The 2018 midterms indicated a more dramatic shift. Turnout in the midterms spiked from 27 percent in 2014 to 40 percent in 2018. And Latinx voters supported Democratic candidates in the general election by a slightly higher margin: 69 percent voted Democrat compared to 29 percent who voted Republican.

As Vox’s Tara Golshan reported, Latinx sentiment has taken a steady hit since Trump took office, due to, among other things, the administration’s policy of separating and detaining families at the border.

The Equis Lab polling indicates that the pushback toward Trump could potentially be sustained through 2020. Based on its analysis of polling in competitive states like North Carolina, Virginia, and Texas, the survey finds that current support for Trump falls short of the exit polling in 2016. (Though lots of experts quibble with those exit poll results.)

In North Carolina, for example, just 18 percent of Latinx voters said they’d reelect Trump in 2020 compared to 40 percent of Latinx voters who supported him in 2016. In Texas, 22 percent of Latinx voters would reelect Trump compared to 34 percent who supported him in 2016.

Equis Labs
Equis Labs
Equis Labs

If these numbers hold and Democrats are able to spur strong voter turnout, Latinx voters could help the party hang onto its House majority and boost a potential presidential candidate. That all depends, though, on how effectively the party connects with them.

“If Democrats assume that they can expect higher voter turnout based on feelings of political threat or angst without investing in voter mobilization, this will likely lead to disappointing electoral participation,” Notre Dame political science professor Ricardo Ramirez told Vox in 2018.

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