The desperation of the presidential election candidates to get the Puerto Rican vote in recent weeks is symptomatic of a serious problem, again addressed too late: the Latino vote.
Since the Democratic primaries, the call from Hispanic organizers and activists across the country has been for candidates to learn once and for all that the Latinx community in the country is not monolithic, much less partisan, although many want to believe otherwise.
Victories like Senator Bernie Sanders’ in the early caucuses were the product of multi-million dollar investment in bilingual campaigns, micro-targeting, and a titanic grassroots political effort. Now, the Biden campaign still seems to be lagging behind, even though polls seem to differ.
According to a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal/Telemundo poll, Biden leads Trump by 62% to 26% among Latino registered voters nationally. Still, his lead “trails Hillary Clinton’s advantage with this voting bloc at the same stage in 2016,” NBC reported.
Respondents believe Biden is best at addressing the Latino community’s concerns, between 59% and 18%, and candidates are nearly evenly matched as to who is best at addressing the economy, with 41% saying Biden and 39% choosing Trump.
While Biden’s 36-point lead shows “strong support” in the community that could help in swing states, the possibility of repeating the 2016 scenario within a few weeks is very high.
The weak link is the male Latino voter, civil rights attorney Ben Crump told Politico.
Black and Latino men still need to be convinced that Biden represents their interests, Crump said. Black men want to hear more about opportunities to build businesses and fixes for the economy, in addition to talk about criminal justice and policing reform.
Over the years, the Democratic Party has not always prioritized Latino men, which has left some disillusioned about politics altogether, Democrats said. Some Hispanic men with roots in Latin American countries with a long history of strongmen leaders are drawn to Donald Trump’s bragging, particularly in Florida, Democrats told Politico. And some young Black or Latino men could protest by voting third party —or simply sit out the election. A few holdouts among that population in battleground states like Arizona and Michigan could determine the election.
“That’s not to say they’re breaking for Donald Trump,” said veteran pollster Cornell Belcher, who worked on Barack Obama’s campaigns and is African American.
But, Belcher said, “they don’t see a great deal of difference between Democrats and Republicans.”
Latinos are the largest nonwhite group of eligible voters this election, at 32 million, NBC continued. However, the National Association of Elected and Appointed Officials has projected that fewer than half, about 14.6 million, will vote in this year’s election, held during the coronavirus pandemic.
Biden’s most significant support among Hispanic registered voters is among those 18 to 39 years old — 71% of that group backs him.
Latinos ages 18 to 35 are about 40 percent of eligible voters in the demographic, according to the Census Bureau. Young Latino turnout has generally been lower than that of other young voters, although Latino voters 18 to 29 increased their turnout in the 2018 midterms.
“If you are the Biden campaign, you are looking at this in terms of opportunity for turnout, because we do know that younger cohort has lower turnout levels, so it’s an opportunity there to expand the electorate but also requires a bit of investment there,” said Aileen Cardona-Arroyo, a senior analyst at Hart Research, to NBC.
With information from NBC and Politico.