Latino voters have growing confidence in Biden on key issues, while confidence in Trump remains low

by Jens Manuel Krogstad and Mark Hugo Lopez, Pew Hispanic

As Election Day nears, Hispanic registered voters in the United States express growing confidence in Joe Biden’s ability to handle key issues like the coronavirus outbreak, with women and college graduates especially confident. By contrast, Hispanics’ views of Donald Trump on major issues are largely negative and mostly unchanged from June. These views of the 2020 presidential candidates come as most Hispanic voters continue to hold bleak views of the nation and its economy after months of widespread job losses and illness due to COVID-19, according to a Pew Research Center survey conducted Sept. 30-Oct. 5.

Latino voters’ confidence in Biden to handle key issues has grown since June

About two-thirds of Latino registered voters say they are somewhat or very confident in Biden to tackle five issues asked about in October, with confidence in Biden higher on every issue since June. The share with confidence in Biden to handle the public health impact of the coronavirus outbreak is up 8 percentage points, 71% in October vs. 62% in June. The largest increase – 15 points – came on confidence in Biden’s ability to bring the country closer together, a margin of 70% vs. 55%. Meanwhile, 66% have confidence in Biden to make good decisions about economic policy, up from 58% who said so in June. In an earlier survey this summer, Latino voters said the economy, health care and the coronavirus outbreak were three of the most important issues to their vote for president.

U.S. registered voters overall also express growing confidence on Biden on these issues, though the increases were more modest and confidence was lower than among Latino voters. For example, 57% of U.S. voters say they have confidence in Biden to handle the public health impact of the coronavirus outbreak, up from 52% in June.

Fewer than half of Hispanic voters have confidence in Trump to handle major issues, with little change since June

Latino voters have significantly less confidence in Trump on these issues. Fewer than half say they are somewhat or very confident that he can handle the five issues, with views on most largely unchanged since summer. Only about three-in-ten Latino voters (29%) say they are confident that Trump can handle the health impact of the coronavirus outbreak. A higher share (44%) are confident that Trump can make good decisions about economic policy. Notably, a declining share of Latino voters say they have confidence that the president can bring the country closer together – 20% in October, down from 28% in June.

Among all U.S. voters, confidence in Trump on these issues is also mostly unchanged, though Americans overall have more confidence in the president than Latino voters. Four-in-ten U.S. registered voters (40%) say they have confidence in Trump to handle the health impact of COVID-19, and 30% have confidence that Trump can bring the country closer together. These shares are little changed from June.

A record 32 million Hispanics are projected to be eligible to vote in 2020, a total that for the first time exceeds the number of Black eligible voters in a presidential election. Hispanic voter turnout has historically lagged that of other groups, though turnout spiked among Hispanics and other groups for the 2018 midterms and approached levels normally seen during presidential election years. Even so, Hispanics made up only 8% of all voters in 2018, compared with 10% in 2016. (Explore our interactive maps and tables to see Latino eligible voters by state and congressional district.)

Biden leads among Hispanic voters

Biden holds large lead among Hispanic voters across demographic groups

Biden holds a 34-point advantage over Trump among Latino eligible voters, far larger than Biden’s 10-point lead among all U.S. voters. In the new survey, 63% of Latino voters say they would vote for Biden or lean toward voting for him if the election were held today, while 29% say they would vote for Trump or lean toward voting for him. In 2016, Latino voters had similar preferences, according to exit polls and a Pew Research Center study of validated voters.

Among Hispanic voters, a higher share of college graduates than those with some college experience or less say they favor Biden, 69% vs. 61%. Meanwhile, 67% of Hispanic women voters and 59% of registered Hispanic men say they prefer Biden.

More Latino voters who support Biden say their choice is more of a vote against Trump than it is a vote for Biden, 59% vs. 40%.

At the same time, Hispanic voters who back Biden are sure about their choice, with 86% saying they are certain they will vote for him – similar to the share among all U.S. voters who support Biden. However, only 57% of Hispanic voters who prefer Biden say they are extremely motivated to vote, a lower share than among the 72% of Biden supporters nationwide.

Hispanic voters in battleground states

Hispanic eligible voters in 2020 presidential battleground states

Biden holds a narrower lead over Trump (54% vs. 37%) among Latino registered voters in nine “battleground” states – Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Michigan, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

Stronger Hispanic support for Trump in battleground states reflects the group’s large population in Florida, where Cuban Americans have helped shape a Hispanic electorate that leans more Republican than Hispanic voters nationwide.

The nine battleground states together have more than 6.3 million Hispanic eligible voters – defined as adult U.S. citizens – and Florida alone (3.1 million) accounts for half of the total. The next largest state is Arizona, with nearly 1.2 million Hispanic eligible voters. In both states, Hispanics make up a fifth or more of all eligible voters – 20% in Florida and 24% in Arizona.

The remaining battleground states, with a combined 2 million Hispanic eligible voters, have smaller but still notable Hispanic electorates. For example, Pennsylvania (521,000), Michigan (261,000) and Wisconsin (183,000) each have sizable numbers of Hispanic eligible voters that can play a role in swinging close elections. In 2016, the presidential contests in these states were decided by a combined total of 77,744 votes.

Impact of COVID-19 on Hispanics

The coronavirus has disproportionately harmed the personal finances of Hispanics, with Hispanic women experiencing the largest job losses of any racial or ethnic group, regardless of gender. About half of Hispanics (53%) say they or someone in their household has been laid off or taken a pay cut because of COVID-19, compared with 42% of all U.S. adults. Since the outbreak started in February, significant shares of Hispanics say they have used money from savings or retirement funds to pay bills (43%), had trouble paying bills (37%), gotten food from a food bank (30%) or had problems paying their rent or mortgage (26%).

Latinos have also experienced disproportionate health impacts from COVID-19. As of mid-August, about one-in-five Latino adults (22%) said they have had a positive coronavirus test (7%) or were “pretty sure” they have had it (15%). By contrast, 14% of all U.S. adults said they have had a positive test (3%) or were pretty sure they have had the virus (11%).

Among Latinos, strong majorities of women and college graduates confident that Biden can handle coronavirus

In the new survey, the Hispanic voter groups most confident that Biden can handle the public health impact of the coronavirus outbreak include women (80%) and college graduates (79%). By contrast, lower shares of Hispanic male voters (61%) and Hispanic voters with some college education or less (68%) say they are somewhat or very confident in Biden.

Hispanic voters have far less confidence in Trump’s ability to handle COVID-19, though there are some differences by education. Especially low shares of Hispanic voters who are college graduates (22%) say they have confidence in Trump to handle the public health impact of the coronavirus outbreak, compared with 31% of those with some college education or less. Meanwhile, 26% of Hispanic women voters and 33% of Hispanic male voters have confidence in Trump to handle the outbreak.

Few Latinos view the economy as good, although there is optimism for the future

Hispanics’ views of U.S. economy up since June, though views differ by gender and education

Roughly three-in-ten Latino registered voters (29%) rate economic conditions in the country as excellent or good, up from 20% in June, but lower than the 35% of all U.S. voters who say so. For Latino voters, the share remains far below the 49% who gave a positive rating to U.S. economic conditions in January, about two months before President Trump declared a national emergency on March 13 due to COVID-19.

Hispanic male voters have a more positive view of the nation’s economy than Hispanic women voters, 34% vs. 23%. Differences also exist by education among Hispanic voters, with 31% of those with some college education or less rating the economy as excellent or good, compared with 22% of college graduates.

Among Biden supporters, only 14% of Latino voters rate the U.S. economy as excellent or good.

Hispanics have some optimism about the future of the economy. About half of Hispanic voters (53%) say they expect economic conditions will be better a year from now, while 30% say conditions will be about the same and 16% say they will worsen.

Older Hispanics have more optimism on this measure than younger Hispanics. About six-in-ten (60%) Hispanic voters ages 50 and older say U.S. economic conditions will be better a year from now, compared with about half (48%) of Hispanic voters ages 18 to 49. Somewhat similar shares of men (57%) and women (49%) among Hispanic voters say economic conditions will have improved in a year. There was no difference by education levels among Hispanic voters, with about half of college graduates and those with some college experience or less saying the economic conditions will be better in a year.

Most Latino voters say they are ‘fearful’ about the state of the nation

Two-thirds of Latino voters say they are ‘fearful’ about the state of the country

Roughly two-thirds of Latino registered voters (68%) say they are fearful about the state of the nation. Meanwhile, 45% of Latino voters say they are hopeful. These views are similar to those reported in June, and similar to those among U.S. voters overall. Latino voters across demographic groups express similar levels of fear when thinking about the state of the country. By contrast, levels of hope for the country among Latino voters vary by gender and education levels.

About half of Hispanic men registered to vote (51%) say they feel hopeful about the state of the country, compared with only 36% of Hispanic women voters. Meanwhile, 37% of Hispanic voters with a bachelor’s degree or more say the feel hopeful, while 47% of Hispanic voters with some college experience or less say the same.

Among Biden supporters, 79% of Latino voters say they feel fearful about the state of the country. Meanwhile, 36% say they feel hopeful.

Latinos voters also had negative views about the nation’s direction. Only one-in-five (21%) say they are satisfied with the way things are going in the country today, a similar share to June (19%) but down from 32% in December 2019.

Note: Here are the questions used for this report, along with responses, and its methodology.

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