The Policy Priorities of Latino Voters in Battleground States

Earlier today, Latino Victory Project and Latino Decisions released the results of a poll examining the issue positions and policy priorities of Latino voters living in a dozen battleground states. [Click here for: toplines, crosstabs, and presentation deck] The poll of 800 Latino registered voters was conducted in English and Spanish between July 18 and July 22 using a blended sample of online surveys and live landline and cell phone interviews. The sample was proportional to the size of the electorate in each of the twelve states. The poll has a margin of error of +/- 3.5 percentage points. In what follows, I highlight some of the key findings.

Across the party-defining issues, Latino policy preferences are more proximate to Democrats than Republicans and Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton is viewed as being better able to address the issues that are central to the 2016 election as compared to her Republican counterpart, Donald Trump.

LVP Issue Comparisons

As the figure details Clinton’s largest advantages over Trump are on the issues of “making college more affordable” (+55) and “representing the U.S. around the world” (+51). Trump does somewhat better on economic considerations such as “improving the economy and creating more jobs” (Clinton + 25) and “regulating big banks and Wall Street reform” (Clinton + 27), as well as “protecting America from terrorist attacks” (Clinton +28).

More generally, Latinos support a broad policy agenda that aligns with the policies being put forth by the Democratic Party. As the figure below details, for a number of issues, including the environment and climate change, immigration, health care, inclusivity of religious minorities, wages, reproductive rights, and corporate taxes, Latino voters are more supportive of the policies being offered by the Democratic Party as compared to the Republican Party.

LVP Policy Preferences

The poll also suggests that battleground Latino voters support many of the gun control measures being championed by Democrats: 95% favor background checks for gun purchases; 67% support a ban on assault weapon sales; and 65% do not think that the U.S. will be safer if more people own and carry guns. On the broader question of the necessity of new gun laws, there is some divergence, as 58% do not think that there is a need for new gun laws, as compared to 40% who do.

LVP guns

There is, however, a small, but consistent share of battleground Latino voters who are supportive of the GOP policy agenda. For instance, 26% responded that on the issues that are most important to them, they agree with the Republican Party (as compared to 74% for the Democrats). In terms of specific policies, 35% favor repealing the Affordable Health Care Act; a quarter think that abortion should be illegal in all cases and that Planned Parenthood should be defunded; and 31% do not support raising the minimum wage to at least $15 dollars.

In sum, the policies being offered by the Democratic Party across a number of issues are better aligned with the preferences of battleground Latino voters. Yet, as the poll results demonstrate, these voters’ preferences are far from monolithic. Or put differently, on the issues Latinos are not so disproportionately pro-Democratic that the GOP should abandon its outreach efforts to Latino voters and the margins are not large enough for the Democrats to take Latino voters for granted. After all, 45% of respondents reported voting Republican at some point in the past.

At the same time, the poll makes clear that Republican messengers—particularly Donald Trump—undermine the GOP’s ability to make inroads with Latino voters. For example, better than three-quarters of battleground Latino voters think that Trump has made people more openly hostile to Latinos, Muslims, and immigrants and 71% agree that the U.S. is angrier and more divided on racial issues because of Trump’s campaign. As a consequence, just 19% think that Trump is the best candidate to unite all Americans (as compared to 75% for Clinton) and only 23% think that if Trump is elected that he will support the Latino community (76% for Clinton). Moreover, among those who indicated that they are more enthusiastic about voting in 2016, 35% attributed their increased enthusiasm to wanting to stop Trump and fight back against racism.

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