As Trump Surges in the Polls, Hispanic Voters Flock to Hillary Clinton
Policy + Politics

As Trump Surges in the Polls, Hispanic Voters Flock to Hillary Clinton

© Dominick Reuter / Reuters

A new Fox News national poll out on Friday has billionaire Donald Trump on top of the GOP presidential pack with 18 percent of the likely Republican vote, followed by Wisconsin Gov.  Scott Walker with 15 percent and former Florida governor Jeb Bush with 14 percent.

GOP voter support for Trump is up by seven percentage points since last month and up 14 points since May, according to Fox News. Moreover, Trump is the candidate that Republican primary voters say they are most eager to learn more about. 

Related: Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop: Trump Attacks Mexicans Again

Trump’s extraordinary climb in the polls in the wake of his explosive rhetoric on illegal immigrants has many in his party worried about the drift of the campaign – but it’s also cause for celebration among Democrats.

The Washington Post reports that Hillary Clinton’s campaign is thrilled with the contrast between Trump’s take-no-enemies approach and Clinton’s more seasoned and sober leadership style and fluency in discussing domestic and foreign policy issues.

While Trump has made headlines by denouncing illegal immigrants from Mexico as rapists, murderers and criminals and vowing to build a wall along the southwest border to prevent further illegal crossings, Clinton has spoken on the need for comprehensive immigration reform, including a pathways to citizenship for many of the more than 11 million illegal immigrants in the country.

Related: Ted Cruz on Donald Trump – I ‘Salute’ Him 

More important, though, is that – whether or not he ultimately wins the GOP nomination—the bombastic Trump may be assuring his party’s failure in trying to woo Latino voters. A new Univision News poll shows that seven in ten Hispanic voters have a negative view of Trump. And in a hypothetical matchup, Clinton beats Trump and other potential GOP opponents by huge margins among Hispanic voters.

The Univision findings are part of a larger bipartisan polling project conducted by the research firms of Bendixen & Amandi International and the Tarrance Group to establish a baseline for attitudes of Hispanic voters on a range of issues and candidates. Roughly 90 percent of Hispanic voters interviewed said they have heard about Trump’s insulting comments, and when they have read specific remarks, nearly 8 in 10 say they find them offensive.

Related: Running Out of Allies – The Mad Rush to Dump Trump 

In a hypothetical general election matchup, Clinton would clobber Trump among Hispanic voters, 70 percent to 16 percent, notwithstanding Trump’s inexplicable declaration that he would “win the Latino vote.”

It’s hard to exaggerate the importance of Hispanic voters to the outcome of the 2016 presidential election – or the uphill battle Republicans face in trying to win Latino votes.

Former president George W. Bush was the last Republican with any real appeal to Hispanic voters, drawing 44 percent of the Latino vote in the 2004 election. Subsequently, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) gained just 31 percent of the Hispanic vote in 2008 and former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney captured just 27 percent in 2012 in their unsuccessful campaigns against President Obama. 

Related: Hillary Clinton’s Achilles' Heel: Trust

In the wake of Romney’s dismal showing, GOP party chairman Reince Preibus called for a dramatic change in party thinking and orthodoxy with regard to Hispanic voters, including a consensus on a comprehensive immigration reform.

Whit Ayres, a prominent Republican pollster who is working for the campaign of Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), has said that the 2016 Republican presidential nominee must carry more than 40 percent of the fast growing Hispanic vote in order to win back the White House.

Even before Trump came on the presidential scene June 16, surveys suggested that Republican candidates like Rubio, former Florida governor Jeb Bush and Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, all of whom have Hispanic family ties, could count on more than a third of the Hispanic vote.

Related: The GOP’s Path to Victory with the Hispanic Voter

Now with Trump poisoning the political well with relentless attacks on illegal immigrants and his joint appearance last week in Arizona with Maricopa Sheriff Joe Arpaio, an arch enemy of illegal immigrants, some party leaders fear that efforts to reach out to Latino voters will go for naught next year. 

Even while about six in 10 Hispanics interviewed for the Univision poll said they thought Trump was speaking for himself, 14 percent said Trump’s comments represent the view of the GOP more broadly. That can’t be good for the party.

Matt A. Barreto, co-founder and managing partner of the polling and research firm Latino Decisions, said it was not uncommon in the past for nasty, anti-immigrant comments by other politicians, such as Republican  Rep. Steve King of Iowa or Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL), to have a “strong spillover effect” on Latinos’ attitudes about the Republican party.

“So I would expect the exact same thing is happening right now with Trump,” Barreto said in an interview on Friday. “People are identifying his comments with the Republican Party, there’s no doubt.”

Related: 5 Reasons Why Bush Could Lose Latino Voters

Barreto said that every other Republican candidate will have an opportunity to make his or her case to Latino voters and that it wasn’t impossible for some of them to succeed. “But Trump’s comments make it increasingly difficult for the party to try to sell themselves to the average Latino voter when he’s going to be standing in the middle of the stage during the debate – most likely continuing these [negative] comments,” Barreto added.