The 2016 presidential election marks a turning in the history of Latino politics in Florida. According to the latest battleground poll by the National Association of Latino Elected Officials (NALEO) and Latino Decisions, the majority of Florida’s Latino voters are backing the Democratic candidate, Hillary Clinton, by wide margins.
In the poll, Latinos were asked if they planned to vote for Clinton, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, or someone else. Nearly two-thirds of Latino voters (63 percent) said they planned to cast a vote for Clinton, while a mere 23 percent said they were voting for Trump. About 14 percent were undecided or voting for someone else. These results are remarkable given that majorities of Florida Latinos have historically voted for Republican presidential candidates.
The shift in support from the Republican Party to the Democratic Party is a result of changes in the composition of the Latino electorate in the state. Latino politics in Florida has long been synonymous with Cuban Americans. However, Puerto Rican and South American migration has slowly altered the political landscape and orientation of the Latino electorate over the last few decades. Today, the Latino electorate is 31 percent Cuban American, while traditionally Democratic-leaning Latino groups have become the majority, with Puerto Ricans at 27 percent, Mexican Americans at 9 percent and Latinos of some other origin at 32 percent of the electorate.
Although demographic changes are significant, they are only part of the story. In this election, Donald Trump is performing dismally across all segments of the Latino electorate. In the figure below, respondents are classified into various socio-demographic characteristics to analyze how well or poorly each of the candidates is doing across each of these segments.
Hillary Clinton is decisively winning across all segments of Florida Latinos. Among her strongest supporters are, millennials, immigrants, and women. Across these voters, 70 percent or more will vote for Clinton. The segments least supportive of Clinton include men (55 percent voting for Clinton) and persons over the age of 40 years (54 percent). Yet, even among these groups, there is at least a 20-point gap in their support for Clinton relative to Trump. In other words, Hillary Clinton is performing strongly even among her most dispassionate supporters.
The data also show the existence of a gender, age, and nativity gaps that favor Hillary Clinton. For example, while almost three quarters of female Hispanics will vote for Clinton, only slightly more than half of male Hispanics plan to vote for the Democratic nominee. Millennials support Clinton by 71 percent compared to 54 percent of the respondents over 40 years of age, a gap of 17 points. Finally, foreign-born persons back Clinton by 70 percent compared to 58 percent among native-born persons, a gap of 12 points. Although Hillary Clinton is winning among all segments of the Hispanic electorate, her performance varies across different groups. Specifically, she is doing significantly better among women, millennials and immigrants.
The political landscape in Florida has evolved as a result of changes in the demographic and political composition of the Hispanic electorate in the state. Once a Republican and Cuban American stronghold, today Latino politics in Florida is diverse and leans toward the Democratic Party. No doubt, Trump’s inflammatory campaign has alienated broad segments of the Latino electorate. Perhaps more importantly, the damage done by Trump’s campaign will be long-lasting given that the future of the Latino electorate lies with millennials, immigrants, and women—all of whom are backing Hillary Clinton by the widest of margins.