Trump Helps Shape Latino View of Republican Party

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Last month, I wrote about how Donald Trump has polled among Latinos over the past year. His pronouncements on immigration and Mexican immigrants have made him very unpopular with Latinos. While Trump almost seems to relish turning people against him, his Latino problem goes beyond damage to his campaign—it is affecting the way Latinos view the Republican Party. Trump is not exactly an ambassador for the party. In this post, I’ll look back over the past year’s worth of polling of Latinos in the U.S., and focus on attitudes towards the GOP.

The first poll of Latino voters that was released after Trump’s campaign launch was conducted by Univision Notices and was partially conducted prior to Trump’s speech. The majority of respondents (52%) questioned prior to Trump’s campaign launch already had an unfavorable view of the Republican Party. However, the party’s unfavorable rating ticked up after Trump made his announcement—to 56 percent. In this survey, 92 percent of respondents said they thought the immigration issue was “very” (72 percent) or “somewhat” (20 percent) important in considering their vote. A majority (52 percent) said they would be less likely to vote for a candidate who opposed legalizing undocumented immigrants.

In November of 2015, Latino Decisions, a company specializing in public opinion polling of Latinos, conducted a survey of Latinos in 14 presidential “battleground” states. In this survey, 69 percent of respondents said that Trump’s negative comments about Mexican immigrants gave them a “very unfavorable” impression of the Republican Party. Nearly half (45 percent) now think that the Republican Party is “sometimes hostile” towards Latinos. (In 2012, only 18 percent of Latinos thought so.) An additional 39 percent thought the GOP “doesn’t care too much” about Latinos.

In February of 2016, The Washington Post and Univision conducted a poll that, among other things, demonstrated that Latinos were paying close attention to the presidential race and to Trump’s comments about Mexican immigrants, with 73 percent of respondents saying they had heard “a lot” about these comments. In this survey, immigration was ranked second in a list of most important issues in deciding respondents’ votes. When asked if they thought Democrats or Republicans could be trusted to do a better job on the issue of immigration, only 19 percent thought Republicans would do so. Similarly, 18 percent thought that Republicans could be trusted to do a better job improving the lives of Latinos in the U.S. (verses 62 percent who thought Democrats could be trusted).

In this survey, a majority, 53 percent, said they would not consider a candidate who did not support a path to citizenship. This sentiment will be a problem for down-ticket Republicans—many Republican candidates and politicians oppose legalizing undocumented immigrants.

This survey included one small bit of good news for Republicans: just 19 percent of respondents believed that Trump’s views on immigration represented the Republican Party’s views.

Latino Decisions conducted another poll in April of 2016 and another in June and July 2016. These survey also contained questions to gauge Latino perceptions of the political parties. When asked in April whether they thought the Republican Party had become more welcoming or more hostile towards Latinos in recent years, a plurality (42 percent) said they thought the party had become more hostile in recent years. That percentage increased slightly–to 46 percent–in July. Respondents were asked in April whether a candidate’s views on immigration made them more or less likely to vote for the candidate’s party in November, and 78 percent of respondents said that Trump’s views on immigration made them less likely to vote for the candidate’s party.

These two polls asked respondents about specific immigration policy proposals, and how their vote might be affected by a candidate’s position. Told in April that the Republican presidential candidates (there were still more than one at that point) wanted to end President Obama’s program “that provides temporary legal work permits to undocumented immigrant youth,” 73 percent of respondents said this makes them less likely to vote for the Republican Party. Responses to a question about the program the president proposed for undocumented parents of U.S. citizens yielded similar results. In the June/July poll, respondents were told that Trump supported the lawsuit against these programs and praised the Supreme Court’s decision that continues a hold on the president’s programs. Respondents were asked whether this made them more or less likely to vote for other Republican candidates. Two-thirds (66 percent) said they would be less likely to vote for Republican candidates.

Again, this is a red flag for down-ticket Republican candidates and incumbents, as most are opposed to these programs. In the June/July survey, 59 percent of respondents said they know someone who is an undocumented immigrant. So, for the majority of Latinos, Republican candidates and incumbents are proposing to deport someone they know.

A Fox News Latino poll in May 2016 found that 58 percent of Latinos had an unfavorable opinion of the Republican Party (while just 32 percent said they had a favorable view of the party). Regarding immigration reform, 90 percent said they favored setting up a system to allow undocumented immigrants to become legal residents, and 29 percent said that, even if they agreed with presidential candidate on everything else except immigration, the disagreement about immigration would be a deal-breaker for them.

The greater affinity of Latinos for the Democratic Party long preceded Trump—in part because Republican politicians and candidates have been using harsh and offensive rhetoric when talking about immigration for years. For Trump, however, harsh rhetoric and ethnic insults have been central to his campaign. This is pushing voter registration among Latinos (and others). For the first time in more than 20 years, there are more registered Democrats than Republicans in Colorado. In another battleground state, Florida, the Democratic advantage in voter registration among Latinos continues to grow. California Democrats say they have Trump to thank for a surge in registered Democrats in that state—especially among Latinos—though California is not considered competitive.

To the extent that Trump is driving Latinos away from the Republican Party, it compounds the difficulty Republicans have of winning over a more diverse electorate including Latino voters—voters who will be increasingly necessary to win national office and who will, as time goes on, be increasingly in the habit of voting Democrat.