Donald Trump — businessman, raconteur, fiery immigration hardliner — has repeatedly insisted that he will win the Hispanic vote once granted the Republican nomination next year. His argument is usually two-fold: one, he'll bring jobs and, two, a poll showed him leading among Hispanics in Nevada. The Nevada poll has a Trump-Tower-sized margin of error. And the idea that Hispanic voters will flock to the candidate who would have us assume that immigrants from Mexico are more likely criminals than not seems iffy.
But the worst fears of the Republican establishment, that Trump's unapologetic condemnations of immigrants will scuttle their shot at retaking the White House, so far aren't revealing themselves in polling.
For all of the polling that's been done in the 2016 races so far, there are a lot of gaps. A big one is that most polls don't include large samples of Hispanic voters, making it hard to isolate the views of members of that community. Often, Hispanic voters are grouped with black and Asian voters to form a statistically significant group of "non-white" voters.
When the Post and ABC News polled voters in the middle of July, we asked whether or not people would vote for Trump in the general election if he won the nomination. White voters mostly said they wouldn't — and non-white and Hispanic voters (the former group including the latter, obviously) strongly said they wouldn't. The overlap between non-white voters on the whole and Hispanic voters is pretty close.
This matched with a Univision poll that showed that over four-fifths of Hispanic voters viewed Trump disapprovingly. In 2012, Hispanic voters backed Obama a little less heavily, by a 71 to 27 margin.
But it isn't that simple. If Trump's comments were hurting him and/or Republicans with voters, we'd expect to see them faring worse after the June/July period in which the comments became public -- and Trump rose in the polls.
The opposite happened. Trump's position among non-white voters improved, substantially, when you look at how he fared in a head-to-head match-up with Hillary Clinton. In a CNN/ORC poll conducted in late June, Clinton led Trump by 67 points among non-white voters. By the end of July, she led by 56 points. By mid-August, 49.
What's more, in the most recent CNN/ORC polling Trump does better against Clinton with non-white voters than Jeb Bush. (Note the dashed line.) The net effect is that Clinton leads Trump by nine points among all respondents in CNN's most recent poll, and Bush by eight. In late June, she led Bush by 13 and Trump by 25.
A lot of the narrowing gap has to do with Clinton herself, of course. And despite the Republicans' improvement, she is still leading.
Once the general election rolls around — and more people are paying attention to the race — everything Trump (and now, Bush) has said about Hispanics and immigrants will be on heavy rotation. At that point, we'll have a better gauge of what repercussions from Trump's comments there might be. For now, though, with voters who are paying attention and answering polls, the effect appears to be small.