When entrance polls from the February 20 Democratic caucuses and the February 23 Republican caucuses in Nevada came out, there was a lot of buzz about the Hispanic vote. The Democratic version showed Bernie Sanders defeating Hillary Clinton 54 percent to 43 percent among Hispanics, even though Hispanics were supposed to be part of her nonwhite-voter “firewall” against Bernie’s young, white liberal hordes. More startling still, the Republican version had immigrant-basher-supreme Donald Trump carrying Hispanic voters against two Hispanic rivals.
An awful lot of cyberink was subsequently spilled to show that the Democratic entrance polls probably overstated Sanders’s Hispanic support significantly, and that the Donald’s supposed spike was an illusion based mainly on a tiny sample of an already-small number of Hispanic GOP caucusgoers. But the most important thing to understand is that Nevada’s just one state with an unusual and relatively low-turnout caucus system. Where are Hispanic voters nationally?
Fortunately, the Washington Post and Univision have conducted a new national survey of 1,200 Hispanic registered voters that should lay to rest both of those entrance-poll-inspired myths. It shows Hillary Clinton leading Bernie Sanders two-to-one (the exact split is 57–28) among Hispanics intending to vote in Democratic primaries, which happens to be about how she did with this demographic in 2008 against Barack Obama. Among Republican primary voters, Trump is tied with Ted Cruz for second place with 22 percent (Marco Rubio is first at 34 percent); among all Hispanics, his favorable/unfavorable ratio is a toxic 16–80, and Hispanic support for a presidential ticket with Trump’s name at the top drops to 16 percent against either Clinton or Sanders.
There are warning signs for both parties in the Washington Post/Univision data. Hispanics appear to be souring on Obama’s overall record on deportations, despite their support for earlier steps to protect certain classes of undocumented immigrants. (Only 17 percent say such policies would make them more likely to vote for a candidate this year.) There’s a reason Hillary Clinton cut that ad in which she consoles a child worried about her parents receiving a deportation notice.
For Republicans, it cannot be encouraging that only 14 percent of Hispanics say they expect to vote for the GOP presidential nominee; so long as Trump remains in the race, that’s not likely to go up much. But it’s also worth noting that the favorite GOP candidate among Hispanics, Marco Rubio (who actually has a net positive approval ratio of 45–37), is still trailing Hillary Clinton about two-to-one in a general-election-trial heat.
There’s also a detail that helps explain why Bernie Sanders did so well among Nevada Hispanics, even if he didn’t actually carry them. He leads Clinton nationally among Hispanic millennials, 49–35 — nothing like the huge vote he’s getting from white millennials, but pretty good. Nationally it’s estimated that millennials represent 44 percent of the Hispanic eligible-voter population (it’s more like a third for whites). Nevada’s Hispanic voting population is said to be younger than average; if so, that would explain why Sanders’s vote would be elevated. That’s a hypothesis we will see tested in contests to come. But no matter how young a state’s Hispanic population happens to be, Sanders won’t be carrying that state overall so long as Clinton is winning over 70 percent of Hispanics over 50 — and carrying Hispanic seniors 76–6! — as she did in this poll. And the Donald probably won’t get any more “Trump wins Hispanics” headlines the rest of the way, unless it’s in a state where Mexican-Americans are scarce and he’s romping to victory with big majorities of the overall vote.