The Latino Electorate and the Republican National Convention

Throughout last week’s Republican Party National Convention in Cleveland, Latino Victory Project, Latino Decisions, and Fusion released daily poll results assessing how Latino voters were reacting to the convention.

The project’s design, which consisted of 300 registered Latino voters completing online surveys in Spanish and English each day, was advantageous for two reasons. It allowed the questionnaire to be updated to gauge reactions to events such as the vice-presidential nomination of Indiana Governor Mike Pence and Donald Trump’s acceptance speech and by combining the responses to questions that were asked multiple times, the precision of the results is improved (the margin of error for the daily polls is +/- 5.6 percentage points as compared to +/- 2.8 percentage points for the combined results).

Collectively, the results [click here to access the toplines for each day and the combined results] underscore the degree to which the Republican Party and the party’s presidential nominee are repelling Latino voters and how this was made worse by the events in Cleveland.

First, there is the man himself. Over the course of the convention Trump’s unfavorable rating averaged 80% and his likely vote share decreased from 17% on Day 1 to 13% on Day 4, while his deficit to Hillary Clinton increased from 55 to 63 points.

When asked to characterize Trump, the descriptors that were chosen most frequently were “racist” and “makes America more divided” (83%); “foolish” and “bully” (82%); “unstable” (81%); and “dangerous” (80%). Just 18% think he “respects women” and only 13% view him as “classy.” Despite his claims that “Latinos love Trump,” throughout the week, an average of 88% of responded that they do not love the Republican nominee.

Trump’s choice of Pence as his running mate is unlikely to improve the GOP’s prospects. In the Day 3 and Day 4 polls we included two questions about the Indiana Governor: one question asking about his record on immigration and the other asking about his record on gay lesbian, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) equality. Combining the samples for both days, 84% responded that Pence’s immigration record made them less likely to vote for Trump and 86% answered that his positions on LGBT make them less likely to vote for Trump.

Then there was the convention itself, which was watched or followed by 72% of Latino voters. Speakers and presentations demonizing immigrants as “criminal illegal aliens who kill people” or questioning the contributions that have been made by non-whites, coupled with chants to “build the wall” and calls to shoot Hillary Clinton for treason, resulted in 59% responding that the convention demonstrated that the GOP is now more hostile to Latino voters and 85% answering that the convention worsened Donald Trump’s and the Republicans’ image with Latino voters.

The most common words used to describe how the convention made Latino voters feel were “disappointed or sad” (78%), “angry” and “worried” (76%), “embarrassed” (70%), “scared” (67%), and “not wanted in the Republican Party” (64%). Just 16% responded that the convention made them feel “proud” and only 21% think that they have “a lot in common with the Republican Party.” The feelings of alienation that were sown by the convention are, however, likely to mobilize the Latino electorate this fall as 72% reported that the convention made them “motivated to vote”—an effect that is likely to reverberate not only in swing states like Colorado, Florida, and Nevada, but in Democratic strongholds and in contexts where the Latino electorate is emerging.

The poll results also suggest how the Republican Party has failed to learn from the recent past. When asked to describe the GOP, the words that were chosen most often were “negative attitude” (79%); “anti-immigrant” (78%); “dangerous” and “old” (76%); and “angry” (75%). In contrast, only 20% selected “cares about me” and 19% chose “makes America more united.”

Indeed, the emergence of Donald Trump and the Republican National Convention in Cleveland undermine most, if not all, of the recommendations outlined in the much ballyhooed post-2012 autopsy report. You know, the report that sought to chart a new course for the GOP in hopes of avoiding a replay of Mitt Romney’s disastrous showing with Latino voters in 2012. Instead, Romney’s Latino vote share of 23%—more than 20 points below the threshold that the Republicans needs to compete for the White House—may be the high-water mark for quite some time to come.


David Damore is a Senior Analyst at Latino Decisions and a Professor of Political Science at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

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