As Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump travels the country issuing strong condemnations of illegal immigrants and the government of Mexico, Hispanic voters are listening — and they don’t like what they are hearing, according to a new survey.
The Univision News Poll, conducted by the independent research firm Bendixen & Amandi International with the Tarrance Group, shows that 7 in 10 Hispanic registered voters say they have an unfavorable impression of the New York businessman. Nine in 10 Hispanics say they have heard about Trump’s comments and, when read specific remarks, nearly 8 in 10 say they find them offensive.
The Univision findings on Trump are part of a large, overall polling project aimed at establishing a baseline on Hispanic attitudes on issues, the political parties and the 2016 candidates. The findings underscore the challenges ahead for the GOP and the large field of aspirants for the party’s presidential nomination as they seek to improve their support among the fastest-growing segment of the population.
Republicans lost the Hispanic vote by overwhelming margins in the past two elections, and leading candidates say they are committed to improving their standing among the fastest-growing segment of the population.
Some party leaders fear that Trump’s rhetoric and his rise in the polls will significantly impede other efforts to make the party more appealing within the Latino community. So far Trump is seen as speaking for himself: About 6 in 10 Hispanics say Trump’s comments represent his own views while only 14 percent say they represent the GOP more broadly; 18 percent say they represent both.
Trump and Univision have clashed in recent weeks after the television network severed its relationship with him and said it would not air the Miss USA pageant, which is connected with the Miss Universe Organization, of which Trump is a partial owner. He has denounced the network.
Trump’s low ratings in the Univision poll closely reflect results from a recent Washington Post-ABC News poll, which found 81 percent of Hispanics giving an unfavorable rating.
Hispanics remain an overwhelmingly Democratic voting bloc, according to the new survey by Univision. Asked to identify themselves by party, just 16 percent of Hispanic voters describe themselves as Republicans, compared with 58 percent who say they are Democrats and 26 percent who say they are independent. Roughly 2 in 3 Hispanics say they have a favorable impression of the Democratic Party while a slight majority say they have an unfavorable impression of the Republican Party.
Among the presidential candidates, Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton has by far the best image among Hispanics, with 68 percent of Hispanic voters saying they view her favorably. She rates slightly higher than Obama, who is viewed favorably by 64 percent of Hispanics — which is well above his overall approval rating nationally.
No Republican comes close to that kind of support. Most are viewed more negatively than positively, though many are not yet well known among Hispanic voters. The highest ratings among the Republican candidates go to the two Florida politicians in the race. Sen. Marco Rubio is viewed positively by 35 percent of Hispanics and negatively by 34 percent. Former governor Jeb Bush is 36 percent favorable but 45 percent unfavorable.
In hypothetical general election matchups, Clinton dominates among Hispanics. She is favored by 64 to 70 percent of Hispanic voters, depending on which opponent she is matched against. Against Bush, the margin today is 64 percent to 27 percent with 9 percent undecided.
Clinton’s standing is close to that of Obama’s in the 2012 election, when he defeated Republican Mitt Romney among Hispanic voters by 71 percent to 27 percent. In 2008, his margin among Hispanics was 67 percent to 31 percent over John McCain.
Among Hispanic Republicans, Bush leads in a limited field of 2016 candidates by a hefty margin, with 38 percent saying they would support him today in a GOP caucus or primary in their state. Rubio is second at 22 percent, with Ted Cruz following at 12 percent. Other GOP candidates asked in this poll -- Donald Trump, Rand Paul and Scott Walker -- are in single digits.
Immigration ranks as an important issue among Hispanics but is not as significant in the eyes of Hispanic voters as jobs and the economy. Immigration ranks fourth on a list of eight issues, mentioned by 13 percent as the most important. That puts it well behind jobs and the economy (36 percent) and narrowly behind education (18 percent) and health care (14 percent).
The biggest split between Republicans and Democrats on immigration reform is over the question of whether the millions of undocumented immigrants already in the United States should be offered a path to citizenship as part of comprehensive legislation. Some Republican candidates, most prominently Bush, favor a path to legal status but not to citizenship.
Six in 10 Hispanics say the Democratic Party’s overall position on immigration is in line with their own, while only 20 percent cite the GOP. The issue of the path to citizenship could provide motivation for some Hispanic voters in 2016. A slight majority (54 percent) say they are more likely to back a candidate who supports a path to citizenship or legal status.
Hispanic voters are also more aligned with Obama’s overture to Cuba and the effort to normalize relations than with widespread Republican opposition to the moves. Overall, 46 percent of Hispanics say the Cuba issue will not factor into their voting decision in 2016. But by a 2-1 margin, the others say they are more likely to support a candidate who favors normalization of relations.
The Univision poll was conducted June 12 to 25 among 1,400 Hispanic voters interviewed on conventional and cellular telephones. A national list of registered voters was used to sample voters identified as Hispanic on official records or who have Spanish first or last names. Respondents were screened to include only those identifying as Hispanic. A supplemental poll with questions on Donald Trump was fielded July 7 to 13 among 1,400 Hispanic voters. Results for each survey have a margin of sampling error of 2.5 percentage points.
Scott Clement contributed to this report.