What Donald Trump is doing on the campaign trail

U.S. Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump speaks at a campaign event at Trump Doral golf course in Miami, Florida, U.S. July 27, 2016. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri (Carlo Allegri/Reuters)

Donald Trump has used the issue of immigration to help make himself the front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination, but his harsh rhetoric also has earned him the highest negative ratings among Hispanic voters of any major GOP hopeful, according to a Washington Post-Univision News poll.

Among Democrats, front-runner Hillary Clinton holds a lead over Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) of roughly 2 to 1 among Hispanics heading toward the Super Tuesday round of primaries and caucuses.

Clinton lost the Hispanic vote in last Saturday’s Nevada caucuses by eight points, according to network entrance polling. The Post-Univision survey was conducted Feb. 11-18, before those caucuses took place. The poll was a joint effort of the independent firm Bendixen and Amandi International and the Tarrance Group, a Republican firm.

Hispanics clearly prefer the Democratic Party to the Republican Party overall and on a host of important issues, though the poll suggests most are not passionate about Democratic leadership or Obama’s presidency.

Republican presidential candidate still faces strong opposition from the Hispanic community nationwide. (Deirdra O'Regan/The Washington Post)

Strongly negative views of Trump have intensified over the past seven months, as the New York billionaire has repeatedly pressed his call to build a wall along the length of the U.S.-Mexico border and seek to deport undocumented immigrants currently residing in the country.

Today, 8 in 10 Hispanic voters have an unfavorable view of Trump. That includes more than 7 in 10 who have a “very unfavorable” impression of him, which is more than double the percentage of any other major candidate.

Those findings compare with a Univision survey taken around the time of Trump’s announcement last summer, when just more than 7 in 10 had a negative view of him and fewer than 6 in 10 said they had a “very unfavorable” impression.

Should Trump become the Republican nominee, his current low standing among Hispanic voters could jeopardize the party’s hopes of winning the general election in November. In current matchups with Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton, Trump scores worse among Hispanics than any of the three other leading Republican candidates — Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and Ohio Gov. John Kasich.

The Post-Univision survey tested those four GOP candidates against Clinton and against Sanders. While all trail badly among Hispanics at this point, Trump does the worst — losing the Hispanic vote to Clinton by 73 to 16 percent. That 57-point gap is little changed from a 54-point deficit recorded last June, but is significantly wider than the 44-point margin by which former Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney lost Hispanics four years ago and bigger than in any presidential exit poll since the 1970s.

Meanwhile, Clinton leads Rubio by 30 points, Cruz by 38 and Kasich by 43. Matched against Sanders, Trump trails by 56 points. Sanders leads Rubio by 24 points, Cruz by 33 and Kasich by 37.

Republican efforts to win a general election hinge in part on whether the party’s nominee can attract a larger share of the Hispanic vote. The alternative is to find additional support among white voters to offset expected losses among Hispanic voters.

The Republican Party and other candidates for the nomination have escaped significant collateral damage from Trump’s candidacy thus far. More than 6 in 10 Hispanic voters said Trump’s views on immigration are not representative of the Republican Party overall.

Trump’s chief Republican competitors, Rubio and Cruz, both of Cuban descent, receive mixed reviews from Hispanics. Rubio has a net positive image, by 45 to 37 percent. Cruz’s is net negative, 44 to 39 percent. Kasich still is not known to about 4 in 10 Hispanics.

Democratic hopefuls Clinton and Sanders are both viewed more positively, with favorable opinions outpacing unfavorable ones by a more than 2-to-1 margin. Their advantage is in part due to Democratic Party leanings of Hispanic voters. Among Hispanics who identify as Independents, Clinton receives mixed reviews with 49 percent favorable and 46 percent unfavorable. Sanders is seen positively by a 60 percent to 25 percent margin among Hispanic independent voters.

Despite his struggles with Hispanic voters overall, Trump wins a share of those planning to vote in Republican primaries and caucuses. Rubio tops the field with 27 percent support, followed closely by Trump at 22 percent and Cruz at 19 percent, all within the range of sampling error. Rubio’s portion of the vote grows to 34 percent when supporters of Jeb Bush are allocated to their second-choice preference, while Trump’s support is unchanged and Cruz’s ticks up to 21 percent.

Trump’s weaker support against Democrats in general election matchups spans demographic groups but is sharpest among Republican-leaning Hispanics. In a matchup with Clinton, 88 percent of Republican-leaning Hispanics said they would support Rubio and 80 percent would support Cruz, but only 59 percent would support Trump against Clinton.

Hispanics are also in a position to influence the Democratic nomination contest. Clinton leads Sanders 57 percent to 28 percent among Democratic primary voters, which is smaller than her 73 percent support in a Univision poll last summer when Sanders held just 3 percent support. Sanders has become much more popular and better-known among Hispanic voters since last summer, with favorable ratings nearly quadrupling from 16 to 60 percent. Clinton still has the upper hand with 67 percent of Hispanic voters seeing her favorably.

Age is a key dividing line among Hispanic Democratic voters, mirroring exit polls in early contests. Among Hispanic voters under age 35, Sanders leads Clinton by 14 percentage points, while Clinton leads by about 50 points among middle-aged Hispanic Democrats and by 70 points among those ages 65 and older.

As past voting patterns suggest, Hispanic voters hold a clear preference for Democrats over Republicans in general as well as on a variety of issues.

By margins of about 3 to 1, Hispanic voters trust Democrats over Republicans to handle immigration, health care, gay marriage and improving their lives. By smaller margins, Democrats are more trusted to cope with the economy, gay marriage and the nation’s problems in general.

The Democrats’ smallest advantage is on terrorism, where 38 percent trust Democrats, 33 percent trust Republicans and the rest choose both or neither.
Jobs and the economy rank atop the list of important issues; 33 percent said these will be most critical in their vote. Immigration and education come next with 17 and 16 percent, respectively, saying they are most important, followed by health care at 11 percent and terrorism at 9 percent. Far fewer said their top issue is foreign policy, climate change or same-sex marriage.

Despite immigration’s secondary ranking, the poll finds support for a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants is a decisive factor for a large swath of the Hispanic electorate. More than 8 in 10 said they want the next president to support such a measure, and 42 percent said they would not consider voting for a candidate who does not support such a policy.

By contrast, 32 percent said that support for the 2010 health-care reform law often known as Obamacare is a prerequisite for their support, as did 32 percent who said this about a $15 minimum wage.

But their trust in the Democratic Party’s leadership is tepid. About two-thirds of Hispanic voters said they trust leaders in the Democratic Party to represent their views, compared with 38 percent who said they trust the Republicans. But few trust Democrats intensely, with only 23 percent of Hispanic voters trusting Democratic leaders “very much,” while 42 percent trust them only “somewhat.”

And while Hispanic voters supported President Obama by wide margins in both 2008 and 2012 elections, almost as many said they would be less likely to vote for a candidate continuing his agenda as said they would be more likely to support them (30 vs. 34 percent).

When asked specifically about Obama’s policy on deportation enforcement for undocumented immigrants, more than twice as many said continuing his policies would make them less likely to support a candidate as more likely (48 vs. 17 percent).

The poll was conducted among a random national sample of 1,200 Hispanic registered voters on landline and cellular phones. Overall results have a margin of sampling error of plus or minus three percentage points.

Emily Guskin contributed to this report.