Donald Trump’s speech on immigration this week — with its full blown xenophobia, its broad brush portrayal of undocumented immigrants as invaders and criminals, and its flat-out nixing of any meaningful path to assimilation — is the stuff of nightmares for GOP operatives who believe their party’s perilous standing with Latinos has left it teetering on the edge of a demographic abyss.
A new poll of over 3,000 Latino voters just released today will not do much to assuage these fears.
The poll, which was commissioned by America’s Voice and conducted by Latino Decisions, finds Hillary Clinton leading Donald Trump by 70-19 among Latinos. That’s worse than Mitt Romney’s 27 percent in 2012.
But buried in the crosstabs are these findings that suggest Trump may also be damaging the GOP’s image among them pretty badly:
* Only 21 percent of Latinos say the Republican Party truly cares about the Latino community. (Forty five percent say the GOP doesn’t care too much about them, and 28 percent say it is hostile to them, a total of 73 percent.) By contrast, 56 percent say the Democratic Party truly cares about them.
* 70 percent of Latinos say that Trump has made the Republican Party “more hostile” to them. By contrast, 58 percent of Latinos say Hillary Clinton has made the Democratic Party “more welcoming” to them.
* 68 percent of Latinos say Trump’s views about immigrants and immigration make them less likely to vote for Republican candidates this November — with 58 percent saying those views have made them much less likely to do that. By contrast, 64 percent of Latinos say Clinton’s views make them either much more likely (43) or somewhat more likely (21) to vote for Dem candidates.
* 63 percent of Latinos say Trump’s opposition to Obama’s executive deportation relief for DREAMers (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) makes them less likely to vote for GOP candidates, with 53 percent saying they are much less likely.
* Latinos say they’ll vote for Democrats on the generic ballot by 60-14.
There is also some evidence that Trump may be galvanizing Latinos to turn out. Seventy six percent of Latinos say it’s more important to vote this year than it was in 2012, and of that group, a bare majority say this is because of the need to resist Trump and his views.
GOP consultant Ana Navarro emails that Trump could indeed be hurting the GOP long term:
“Trump’s fate has been decided with Latinos. Put a fork in him, he’s done. What we have to worry about now is that Trump does not do to the GOP nationally what Pete Wilson did to the GOP in California. He made the party brand less popular than Dengue Fever among Hispanics.”
I’m not sure if there’s any polling on Dengue Fever, but it probably isn’t all that popular. That aside, the comparison to Pete Wilson is interesting. You may recall that one of the only TV ads the Trump campaign has been airing in swing states, which portrays undocumented immigrants as dark, invading hordes, very much resembles a notorious ad that Wilson ran in California in the mid-1990s. Some Republicans have wondered aloud whether Trump’s rise may portend or encourage a long term fate for the GOP nationally that is similar to the demographic marginalization the GOP suffered in California.
The necessary caveats: This poll was sponsored by an immigrant advocacy group (America’s Voice), and it includes a mix of telephone and internet polling. However, a recent WaPo poll also found similar travails for Trump among Latinos: 80 percent of them viewed him unfavorably. The new Latino Decision poll puts it slightly lower, at 74 percent. Nonpartisan observer Larry Sabato today vouched for the new poll as “exceptionally well done.”
Obviously there is no way to know whether Trump will actually end up doing serious damage to the national party among Latinos over the long term. It’s always possible that he’ll moderate and improve among them in coming weeks.
But Trump seems to be going in the opposite direction. Indeed, all of the new polling was conducted before Trump gave his immigration speech, at a time when the media coverage reflected hints that he might soften his position, and before prominent conservative Latinos backing Trump announced they were pulling their support in response.
So in coming days and weeks it’ll be worth tracking the polling among Latinos to see if Trump’s — and the GOP’s — numbers among Latinos continue to get even worse. If that’s possible.
UPDATE: I should add that none of this means Democrats should, or are, taking the Latino vote for granted in this particular election. As Abby Philip reports, some Dem strategists point out that counting on Latinos only to vote against Trump, without giving them a compelling enough reason to vote for Clinton, could prove a mistake. Still, the new numbers have to be worrisome to Republicans who are thinking beyond this election.