In 2012, Exit Polls
revealed that President Obama garnered 71% of the Hispanic vote, while his Republican rival Mitt Romney captured a mere 27%. In 2008, Republican John McCain didn’t do much better, capturing only 31% of the Latino vote to Obama’s 67%. In sum, Latinos have demonstrated a strong affinity towards the Democrats. Is that because they hate Republicans? The data suggests no.
A recent MSNBC/Telemundo/Marist poll finds that while Latinos are more favorable towards Democratic presidential candidates they are not antagonistic towards Republican candidates either, they just don’t know them—except for Trump.
On average, 17% of Hispanics gave negative ratings to potential Democratic nominees Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden, and Bernie Sanders. Nearly the same share—15% gave negative ratings on average toward Republican candidates including Ben Carson, Marco Rubio, Jeb Bush, Ted Cruz, and Scott Walker. This number excludes, however, the 70% who gave a negative rating of Donald Trump, immigration provocateur.
While Hispanics don’t disproportionately view Republicans unfavorably, they do give more positive marks towards the Democrats. On average, 35% of Latinos had positive ratings of Democratic candidates and 20% had positive ratings of Republican candidates.
A major difference between Republican and Democratic candidates was the share of Latinos who had never heard of, or had no opinion of, the candidates. On average, 42% of Latinos had no opinion of Republican candidates (again, excluding Trump from this average) compared to 27% who had no opinion of Democratic candidates.
This data indicate that Latinos don’t hate Republicans. Instead, Republicans haven’t shown up in community venues or in news mediums to garner greater exposure in Hispanic communities as much as Democrats. When Republicans do make headlines in Hispanic communities, it's typically for bombastic proposals like Trump’s plan to forcibly deport 11 million unauthorized immigrants, necessarily breaking apart families and loved ones.
Perhaps surprisingly, Latinos' negative attitudes toward Trump do not spill over toward the other GOP candidates. This means GOP candidates can stake out different positions on immigration and potentially win over a fast-growing demographic in the country.
Trump the Exception Not the Rule?
Donald Trump is the one Republican that Hispanics have disproportionately heard about—and what they've heard is not good. While Republican candidates on average received negative marks from only 15% of Hispanics, Trump got a 70% negative rating. Trump has made a number of provocative and controversial statements on the campaign trail, and his positions on immigration are likely behind his inability to connect with Latinos.
A recent Washington Post/ABC news survey model found that immigration attitudes are the strongest statistical predictor of Trump support. Trump is not a limited government conservative, and neither are many of his supporters. But rather his controversial immigration positions are key to his support, and negatively define him among Hispanics as well.
For more public opinion analysis sign up here for Cato’s weekly digest of Public OpinionInsights.