Throughout these early months of the 2020 election cycle, I’ve done my best to ensure our campaign coverage here is anything but “poll-driven”. Still, every so often, I’ll break my own “No Polls!” rule when I notice something that’s actually newsworthy and insightful, as opposed to the usual “Look at the exciting horse race!” hyperventilating.
Today happens to be one of those days, and that’s because one of the nation’s best pollsters dropped some numbers that we can actually use.
Here’s why I actually care about this poll being released.
Last week, I debuted our Nevada Democratic Caucus power rankings and initially gave former Vice President Joe Biden top honors largely thanks to his enduring leads in all national polls and most Nevada polls. However, his polling advantage here in Nevada (averaging the three polls publicly released last month) is a mere 3.67%. And while Biden has a heftier national advantage, he’s typically polling no higher than 35%, typically a warning sign of a frontrunner whose seeming glide path to the nomination becomes far tougher once one’s field of opponents winnows down.
Late last year, Latino Decisions’ data proved incredibly valuable in forecasting the “Blue Wave” that crashed down upon Nevada and across the nation, including their data showing how voters of color specifically lifted Democrats to victory in their rejection of President Donald Trump’s overtures of “economic anxiety”.
So when I learned that Univision would be releasing a new national Latino Decisions poll of Latinx voters ahead of the Democratic Debate Univision and ABC News will be hosting this Thursday, I knew I had to hop on the press call. After all, Latinx voters comprised about 19% of Nevada Democratic Caucus turnout in 2016, and early signs suggest Latinx voters will make at least as much of an impact this time around.
Today’s big news: Among Latinx voters, Biden and Sanders remain near-tied while Warren and Harris bump up (and others fade away).
In Univision’s and Latino Decisions’ last national poll of Latinx voters released before the NBC Debate in June, Biden held a statistically insignificant 1% edge (21%-20%) over U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont), with Texans Julián Castro and Beto O’Rourke further behind (9% Castro, 8% O’Rourke) and Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts) and Kamala Harris (D-California) a tick behind the Texans (7% Warren, 6% Harris).
In Univision’s and Latino Decisions’ new national poll of 1,043 Latinx registered voters released just moments ago, Biden holds a mere 2% lead (22%-20%) over Sanders. Meanwhile Castro and Warren finally break into double digits (12% Castro, 11% Warren), and Harris improves a bit at 8%. O’Rourke, however, slipped down to 6% support.
While speaking with reporters, Latino Decisions Principal Matt Barreto noted, “Sanders and Biden were [leading] in our June poll, but we are seeing a little bit of movement.” Barreto then explained that while Latinx Democrats view the race somewhat differently than the overall Democratic electorate, the general trend lines are consistent across the board. “We’re seeing a similar trend among Latinos. While Biden and Sanders are in front, we’re seeing movement for Castro and Warren, reflecting the national environment,” Barreto stated. Barreto then added that Castro’s strength in the early debates, including his addressing of issues his fellow Latinx voters care about, has likely contributed to his enduring strength amongst Latinx Democrats thus far.
Surprise (not): Trump’s slump continues.
In addition to primary/caucus numbers, Latino Decisions also tested overall Democratic strength against President Donald Trump in the general election. As of now Trump only has a 22% approval rating among Latinx voters, down slightly from 25% in June. And just over a month after a series of mass shooting attacks across the nation, including a white nationalist attack on El Paso, 69% of Latinx voters see Trump as a contributing factor to the El Paso Shooting, with 43% saying Trump contributed “a great deal”. In addition, 84% of Latinx voters say white supremacist terrorists pose a national security threat and 66% worry that the U.S. will experience more white supremacist attacks targeting people on their race and/or country of origin.
On another major issue emanating from the El Paso Shooting, 92% of Latinx voters support universal background checks for gun purchases and transfers, while 84% support a new assault weapons ban. And when it comes what Latinx voters view as the important issues, stopping Trump (17%), combating racism (16%), and gun violence (13%) have all risen on the chart since June. While health care (18%) and immigration (17%) are still at the top of Latinx voters’ minds, both have faded a bit since June as “stopping Trump”, racism, and gun violence have risen as top priorities.
When Mitt Romney won the Republican nomination in 2012, Latino Decisions found that 56% of Latinx voters felt that the Republican Party didn’t care about Latinx Americans while 18% viewed the GOP as full-on hostile. Back then, various Republican Party insiders viewed these numbers as “troubling”. In this new poll, just 29% sense that the Trump-era Republican Party doesn’t care about Latinx Americans. But before anyone claims this is an improvement for the GOP, note that 50% of Latinx voters now see the GOP as openly hostile toward Latinx Americans.
The takeaway: Voters of color matter, here in Nevada and throughout the nation.
Overall 73% of Latinx voters have already decided or are inclined to vote for whoever the Democrats nominate, while only 16% have decided or are leaning towards Trump. Even amongst Latinx Republicans, only 54% are planning to vote for Trump while 32% have decided or are leaning towards the Democrats. And when tested against specific Democratic candidates, Trump gets no higher than 21% support amongst Latinx voters while the Democrats currently get anywhere from 65% (Warren and Harris) to 71% (Biden and Sanders) support. This is probably close to where the Latinx vote landed in 2016, and it’s a sharp decline from the 40% support President George W. Bush enjoyed among Latinx voters in 2004.
During the press call, Matt Barreto explained, “I believe we’ve really turned a corner in the level of anger and the increased mobilization that [the Democratic Party and progressive groups] are doing.” He then added, “I think the 2018 election showed that.” Again, polling and precinct data back up Barreto’s point that Latinx voters and communities of color in general provided Democrats’ margin of victory here in Nevada and elsewhere in last year’s midterm election.
Yet while this point adds to the growing consensus amongst election experts and insiders that Democrats are favored to beat Trump here in Nevada next year, it also adds an exclamation point to the message Nevada leaders from U.S. Senators Catherine Cortez Masto (D) and Jacky Rosen (D) to local party officials have been making all year long: “We matter.” More specifically, in order to prove viability and “electability” in the general election, these candidates must first prove to Nevada voters of color that Democrats truly will fight for all Americans and for an America that values all its people.