There have been scores of news stories over the past six months suggesting Donald Trump’s offensive comments about Hispanics will further damage the Republican Party’s already precarious position with Latinos.
Trump, of course, has refuted such statements and the harsh criticism he has received from many prominent members of the Latino community by claiming “Latinos love me” and predicting that he will “win the Latino vote” in November if he is the Republican nominee. He often cites poll numbers showing him doing well with likely Latino voters in the GOP primary.
Trump’s national polling numbers, however, tell a much different story. Gallup daily tracking polls, which interviewed over 2,000 Hispanics in July and August 2015, reported that this group holds an overwhelmingly negative opinion of Trump. Indeed, Trump’s net Hispanic favorability rating (favorable minus unfavorable) was minus 51 in these summer Gallup Polls .
Likewise, a November 2015 Latino Decisions survey of residents in battleground states found Trump’s net favorability rating among Latinos to be minus 56. And a Field Poll earlier this month showed a whopping 85 percent of Latinos in California have an unfavorable opinion of the Donald compared to just 10 percent who rate him favorably.
As telling as these numbers are, they cannot tell us how much Trump’s campaign incendiary comments about Latino immigrants have contributed to his especially unpopular image among Hispanics. Nor can they shed light on how whites and Latinos may have differed in their responses to Trump’s presidential campaign.
Now, thanks to a collection of survey data from YouGov, we can show how whites’ and Latinos’ opinions of Trump have changed since he announced his presidential candidacy on June 16. The assessments data includes 19 surveys that were conducted every week or every other week between June 13 and Jan. 19.
Most importantly for our purposes, YouGov’s June 13 to 15 survey asked respondents about Trump before his June 16 announcement speech led to a storm of controversy for suggesting that Mexican immigrants were “rapists.”
The graph below plots the results from those surveys, displaying Trump’s net favorability rating from June through January separately for both whites and Latinos.
Before June 16, Latinos and whites had similar assessments of Trump. In the immediate aftermath of his “rapist” comments, though, Trump’s Latino popularity plummeted from a net favorability rating of minus 25 all the way down to minus 60 in July, before stabilizing at around minus 50 over the past several months.
Meanwhile, whites’ assessments of Trump have moved in the opposite direction. His net rating increased steadily during the summer months of 2015, before plateauing at minus 10 in November. So, while Trump is still unpopular with whites in general, his campaign has sharply polarized Americans by race and ethnicity.
That polarization persists after controlling for the fact that whites are more likely to be Republicans than Latinos and this polarization is unique to Trumps. Whites and Latinos have not grown further apart in their impressions of other Republican presidential candidates.
In fact, this white-Latino divide in assessments of Trump also extends to Republicans’ primary vote choices. The graph below pools together all of the YouGov surveys from June through January to get a sizable sample of Latino Republicans. It shows that white Republicans are significantly more likely to prefer Trump in the primary than Hispanic Republicans.
Unlike Trump, the graph further shows that Ted Cruz and especially Marco Rubio have had more support from Latino Republicans in the months leading up to the primaries than they have had from whites.
Not surprisingly, then, Latinos do not love Trump. Instead, his campaign has increasingly turned this important voting bloc against his candidacy and polarized the electorate by race and ethnicity. A Trump nomination could easily set back the Republican Party’s efforts to make inroads with Latinos for quite some time.
Michael Tesler is an assistant professor of political science at the University of California at Irvine. He co-author of “Obama’s Race” and author of the forthcoming “Post-Racial or Most-Racial? Race and Politics in the Obama Era.”