Latino voter enthusiasm in Florida high – Crist leads Scott 53 to 29

The U.S. Census reports that Latino turnout in Florida in 2010 was 70% and today 73% of registered Latinos say they are “almost certain” to vote according to a new poll released by the National Council of La Raza Action Fund and the National Council of La Raza.  Historically, Florida has had competitive elections with better outreach of Latinos than other states which often results in Latino turnout rates among the highest in the country in the Sunshine state.  Whether or not Latino turnout actually registers at 73% will depend largely on the voter mobilization efforts by both political parties as well as non-partisan civic groups such as NCLR, which has a robust voter mobilization effort in Florida.

The poll of 600 registered Latino voters – implemented by Latino Decisions – also found Democrat Charlie Crist leading Republican Rick Scott among Florida Latinos 53% to 29% with 18% undecided.  As reported by Marc Caputo of the Miami Herald, this 24-point gap favoring the Democrat is similar to the 21-point advantage Obama had over Romney among Florida Latinos in 2012.  If this trend holds, it represents a considerable shift in voting patterns in Florida’s Latino community which used to be dominated by conservative leaning Cuban Americans.  However today, Cuban Americans represent less than 40% of all Latino voters in Florida as the number of Puerto Rican, Colombian, Dominican, and Mexican origin voters has increased rapidly over the past two decades.

According to Loren McArthur, deputy director of civic engagement for National Council of La Raza, Latino turnout if Florida may be quite high. “There has been a lot of rumbling from pundits that Latino voters will stay home this year because they are demoralized by the lack of progress on immigration reform. When asked whether inaction on immigration means Latinos should turn out or sit home in November,” he said, pointing to the poll, “nearly eight times as many Latino voters say turnout is more important than ever this year,” said McArthur.

On of the most important policy issues reported in the survey was health care and the topic of Medicaid expansion. Overall, 66% of Latino voters in Florida said they would vote for a candidate who supported Medicaid expansion, while 17% said they would back the candidate who opposes Medicaid expansion. When asked if Florida should accept federal monies to pay for 90% of the program costs of Medicaid expansion, 78% of Latino voters said yes, compared to just 10% who were opposed.  Finally, respondents were asked if the Governor of Florida should use executive authority to expand Medicaid if the state legislature fails to do so and 69% of Latinos agreed.

Full poll results are available here