What can we learn about the 2016 election from the Latino Decisions Election Eve Poll (about which more below)? Two things stand out. On Nov. 8, Latino turnout was up significantly compared with 2012. And Latinos gave a substantial share of their votes — we estimate 79 percent — to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
That’s what we know from our poll, combined with some of our pre-election surveys. The national exit surveys’ deeply flawed methodology distorts the Latino vote. Even the exits, however, find that the Latino electorate gave a supermajority of its vote to Clinton. Figuring in the increase in Latino voters, Donald Trump received only 18 percent of the Latino vote, the lowest level on record for any presidential candidate.
Here’s how we did our research
Exit polls get results from a small, nonrepresentative sample of a handful of precincts. By contrast, the Latino Decisions election eve poll includes a random statewide sample of all Latino voters across each state. The survey was available in English or Spanish from point of first contact. Random sampling is the single-most important feature of accurate polling; bilingual polling is critical in the Latino community. Further, our data are then weighted to match the census for the correct geographic dispersion, age, education and gender of Latino voters.
Our Election Eve Poll included a minimum of 400 completed interviews of Latino voters in each of 11 states, a minimum of 800 in the heavily Latino Florida, another 400 across the remaining 38 states, for a total of 5600 interviews. All the interviews were dispersed geographically in keeping with the distribution of the Latino population. As a result, they are more reliable than exit interviews, which are necessarily clustered in a few specific precincts.
For all these reasons, our results differ significantly from those of exit polls and, from a social science perspective, are more accurate and reliable. We are calling on the exit polls to reveal the exact methodology and demographics of their Latino sample so that those can be compared.
More Latinos voted than ever before
Our LD Turnout Predict tool estimates that 13.1 million to 14.7 million Latinos cast ballots in the 2016 election. That’s a significant increase from the 11.2 million Latino votes cast in 2012.
Latinos turned out in high numbers, and they turned out early, outpacing early voting numbers from 2012 in essentially all key battleground states. That includes Florida, where their early vote numbers increased by nearly 90 percent from 2012.
We saw similar growth in every heavily Latino county in Texas. For instance, in the strongly 90 percent Latino counties in the Rio Grande Valley, turnout increased 4 to 10 percent over 2012. Similarly, in heavily Latino precincts across Florida’s Miami and Osceola counties, voter participation increased from 6 to 16 points. In New Mexico, precincts in Las Cruces that are 99 percent Latino showed consistent increases in voter turnout in 2016 over 2012.
The “real world” election result data from across the country corroborates what we have been seeing all year in our polling data: Latinos were more enthusiastic about voting in 2016.
When we look at the numbers from our Election Eve Poll, for example, we found that an all-time high of 53 percent of Latino voters nationwide voted early either by mail/absentee ballot (24 percent) or through an early voting location (29 percent), corroborating the early vote numbers reported before Election Day. In the final NALEO/Telemundo tracking poll, 76 percent said voting in 2016 was more important than any other election in their lives.
They voted because they feared a President Trump
Our polling throughout the election season indicated that the high levels of Latino enthusiasm about voting were driven largely by fear of a Trump victory, which we have called “Trump Bump.”
Trump’s anti-Mexican and anti-immigrant comments throughout the campaign season appeared to energize the Latino electorate. Our Election Eve Poll finds that 55 percent of Latino voters stated that Trump was “hostile” toward Latinos or Hispanics and 29 percent said he “did not care too much” about Latinos. In 2012, only 18 percent viewed Romney as “hostile” while 56 percent said he “did not care” about Latinos.
In a poll we conducted immediately after the Republican National Convention, more than 80 percent of Latinos said the themes of the convention were anti-Latino and offensive — 80 percent!
Further, we found that 20 percent of 2016’s Latino voters were exercising the franchise for the first time. That was true for more than a third of North Carolina’s Latino voters.
Latinos voted overwhelmingly for Clinton
Nationally, Clinton received a record-high 79 percent to 18 percent for Trump, with 3 percent voting for one of the third-party candidates. This 61 percent gap is the largest we have recorded at Latino Decisions, outpacing the 2012 Obama advantage over Romney, at 75 to 23 percent.
That varied by state. Latino support was at 88 percent in New York, and well above 80 percent across every state except for Florida. In Florida, influenced by the more conservative Cuban vote, Clinton won 67 percent and Trump 31 percent — which still gave her a large increase over Obama, who won Florida Latinos 58 to 40 percent.
In heavily Latino counties, that preference was even more pronounced. For instance, Starr County, Tex., is 96 percent Latino; there, Trump won just 19 percent of all votes cast. In Florida’s Miami-Dade County, the heavily Cuban precinct 419 — which had cast only 28 percent votes for Obama — jumped to 49 percent for Clinton, a 21 point increase. In the heavily Puerto Rican precinct 210 in Kissimee, Fla., Clinton defeated Trump 80 percent to 17 percent. In New Mexico’s Las Cruces, precinct 80 cast only 9 percent of its votes for Trump. And in Milwaukee District 12, precinct 233, which is 77 percent Latino, the vote was 88 percent for Clinton to 9 percent for Trump.
There are literally thousands of similar results across majority-Latino precincts in the country. The national exit polls apparently did not conduct any interviews in these Latino enclaves.
Results have been consistent for months
Our findings over the past several months have been highly consistent. Clinton was running far ahead of Trump with Latino voters throughout the election, with little fluctuation. Latino voters made up their minds early. When asked when they decided which presidential candidate they would vote for, 78 percent said they did so over the summer or earlier.
Trump’s immigration policy pronouncements began when he came down the escalator to announce his campaign and called Mexicans rapists and criminals. Latino voters took note from day one.
Gabriel R. Sanchez is a professor of political science at the University of New Mexico and principal at Latino Decisions.
Matt A. Barreto is a professor of Chicano studies and political science at UCLA and co-founder of Latino Decisions.