Latino support for President Donald Trump has risen to 30% nationwide, a survey published by Claremont McKenna College in California finds.
These numbers seem to suggest that Trump’s support among Latinos could be growing and support for the Democrat nominee seems to be shrinking compared to exit polls from 2016.
According to the new survey, Joe Biden’s Latino support is at 62%, slightly underperforming 2016 Democrat nominee Hillary Clinton’s 66% support in that election’s exit polls. In 2016, Trump won 28% of the Latino vote.
“Trump is gaining ground despite COVID-19 and building the border wall," said Gaston Espinosa, the professor in charge of the study. "Latinos will be among the largest groups of voters in key swing states in 2020, making this population key for Biden, especially in Florida.”
The survey polled 1,292 Latinos from Sept. 8-18, making it the largest Latino religion and politics survey this election season. While the findings suggest that Trump may be gaining some ground with Latino voters, Trump’s real support among Latinos in the new study could be nearly 3% more or less, as the margin of error of the survey is +/- 2.73%.
The college reports that while Biden has a commanding lead in support among Latinos in swing states, the study shows that Trump is performing better than expected in five states: Florida (41%), Nevada (38%), Texas (35%), Georgia (35%), and North Carolina (28%).
Nearly 20% of Latinos are evangelical Christians, the survey said. These evangelicals are also most likely to vote for Trump (48% to 46%).
Espinosa, the Arthur V. Stoughton Professor of Religious Studies, said that Trump could get the highest Latino support since John McCain’s 31% in 2008.
“Based on Trump's favorability rating, the fact that conservatives underreport, and that a high percentage of independent and undecided voters nationwide are born-again Christians, Trump may end up taking 31-34% of the U.S. Latino vote — though probably around 32-33%,” Espinosa said in a statement.
The Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, senior pastor of New Season Christian Worship Center in Sacramento, California and president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference told The Christian Post that Latino support for Trump comes from strong beliefs on abortion, freedom of religion and biblical justice.
“We believe that justice comes from the heart of God,” Rodriguez said. “If you love God, you love your neighbor.”
Rodriguez said that in the last four years, the Democratic Party has rapidly changed to promote abortion and laws that put religious liberty in danger.
Rodriguez has worked with both Democrats and Republicans in the past. His mother has always voted Democrat, he said. In 2008, Rodriguez served on President Barack Obama’s White House Task Force on Fatherhood and Healthy Families. He said he remembers Obama telling him abortion is “a personal tragedy.”
But Rodriguez can’t vote Democrat anymore because the party has become pro-abortion, he said. His mother plans to vote for Trump in the 2020 election, too, because Trump’s policy is pro-life.
“The Democratic Party went from rare, legal and in the first-trimester abortion to late-term and post-birth abortion. This is not the party of Barack Obama,” he said. “This is not the party of Bill Clinton. The Democratic Party is the party of infanticide. How can I, as a Christian, support that sort of agenda?”
The decisions of people like Rodriguez and his mother might play a decisive role in the 2020 election.
“It could make all the difference in key swing states,” Espinosa said. “Trump's 2016 Latino vote support was larger than his margin of victory in a number of key swing states like Florida, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan.”
Espinosa also found that a little over half of born-again Christian Latinos are undecided voters. Their decisions might have a crucial impact on Trump’s election chances.
Bianca Gracia, the president of Latinos for Trump, told CP that she suspects the real Latino voter numbers could be far higher in Trump’s favor. She pointed to Trump outperforming 2016 expectations as evidence that polls often don’t pick up his supporters.
“I’m always very skeptical of polls because in 2016 all the polls were for Hillary Clinton,” she said.
Gracia believes the enthusiasm she’s seen for Trump from Latino pastors across the country is proof that pro-Trump sentiment is sweeping through the community.
“Latino pastors have been calling me for months now, asking what we can do. I’ve been getting calls from regions that have been blue for a hundred years,” she said. “Hispanic evangelicals whose congregations were not voting are voting this year. They’re highly, highly motivated. The nondenominational, mom-and-pop churches are going to multiply votes.”
Small Latino churches will provide many votes for Trump, Gracia said. Evangelical churches encourage Latinos to vote their pro-life values. Although a small church might have only 100 members, Latinos tend to have large families, and when one churchgoing family member votes Trump, others often will too.
“That parent is urging their family that their votes are more important than ever before,” Gracia said. “That congregation of 100 has turned into possibly 500 votes. You multiply those numbers.”
The pro-Trump Latino movement comes from congregations that realize American mainstream culture has changed dramatically, Gracia said. In 2016, many Latinos believed that Trump was a racist who wouldn’t help them as president. Now, these people see that Trump’s policies match many of their priorities.
“They couldn’t really swallow voting for Trump, but seeing what’s happened with Israel, with his strong stance for pro-life, with his faith-based initiatives has changed their minds,” she said.
Now, these pastors are mobilizing their churches and community organizations to vote against abortion. Gracia said she told Houston pastors that other issues they cared about wouldn’t change until they took action to vote against abortion.
“You’re never going to get anything done for illegals because you have allowed babies to be murdered,” Gracia stated. “The Lord is never going to bless your community until you stop the bloodshed.”
The survey showed that Catholics were the least pro-Trump Latino group, with around one in four supporting Trump. Biden, who is Catholic, carries a rosary in his pocket and attends mass every Sunday.
Catholics care about different issues than evangelicals because they have a different focus in theology, Rodriguez said. Catholics are concerned more about issues involving justice for people, while evangelicals care more about personal rightness before God.
“Catholics see a horizontal lens to the Cross and Evangelicals see the Cross vertically,” he said.
Rodriguez said that if Democrats continue in their present political path, they will lose more of the Latino vote. Latinos will become more politically active and more conservative to oppose abortion.
“If the Democratic Party doesn’t have a come-to-Jesus moment you will see more Latinos identify as conservatives — maybe not Republicans, but conservatives,” he said. “It’s inevitable. This election will be a massive wake-up call on many fronts.”