This article is part of our special report US Election Special 2020: What to watch and why it matters.
As the US election nears, polls have consistently shown a lead for Joe Biden by an average of nine points nationally. However, looking into different groups, these surveys show support for Donald Trump coming from a surprising place – Latino men – and this could have implications for key swing states.
Since he began his bid for the White House in 2015, Trump has made no secret about his views towards immigrants, particularly those coming from Latin America. In the speech announcing his candidacy, he famously declared that Mexican immigrants are “bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.”
Once in the White House, he has since instituted a number of policies that make it harder for people coming from Mexico and other places in Central and South America to enter the country. This has included separating families of asylum seekers at the border and sharp increases in the number of deportations.
Furthermore, the Latinx community has been one of the worst impacted by the country’s inadequate response to the coronavirus. Data from the Center for Disease Control (CDC) from August shows that Latinx people were 2.8 times more likely to catch coronavirus than their white counterparts and 4.6 times more likely to be hospitalised.
Thus, it has come as a surprise to many that Trump’s support among Latinx voters has remained stable since 2016. This was compounded by a recent New York Times/Siena College poll, which showed Biden having only an 8 point advantage over Trump with Latino men, as compared to 34 points for Latinas. Some polls find that up to a third of Latino men could vote for Trump.
As with any voting group, the interests and motivations of Latino men vary. This is particularly true for Latinx voters, whose political affiliations will also likely depend upon which country they or their family originally came from, how recently they immigrated, how religious they are, as well as age and gender.
It is for this reason that the polling website FiveThirtyEight, as well as many others, have declared, “There’s No Such Thing As The ‘Latino Vote.’”
However, extensive reporting on this disparity has shown similar trends among Trump-supporting Latinos that have helped to explain his appeal. The Latinos for Trump page points to five issues in explaining their support for the president: Freedom, Faith, Family, Economy, and Jobs and Opportunity.
Some are particularly attracted to the individualistic ideals of the Republican Party. One man, Randall Avila, who is also the executive director of the Orange County Republican Party in California, told NPR: “The independent spirit of our community really drove me to the Republican ideal of making sure that you’re able to provide for yourself and your family.”
Other cited their faith, particularly being attracted to the Republican party over their stance on issues like abortion.
Following their multiple interviews with Latino voters, the New York Times put forward another motivation.
“To them, the macho allure of Mr Trump is undeniable. He is forceful, wealthy and, most important, unapologetic. In a world where at any moment someone might be attacked for saying the wrong thing, he says the wrong thing all the time and does not bother with self-flagellation,” the article argues.
Some also perceive this support to be a failure of Democratic outreach. In September, “it seems like the Latino vote is not being taken seriously by activists around the country […] Latino organisations are still not being funded to get out the vote and to maximise our input,” Chuck Rocha, former senior campaign advisor to Bernie Sanders (a candidate who received a large amount of Latinx support in the primaries), warned in an interview with Vox.
Crucial in battleground states
Even marginal differences in Latino support for Trump could yield big gains for him in the election. According to Pew Research, Latinos are the largest and fastest-growing group of non-white voters in the country and make up a significant share of the vote in every state.
Across the country, this group can play an important role in electing the president, but in certain battleground states, which either candidate needs to win in the winner-take-all system of the Electoral College, they can be crucial.
In Texas, for example, 30% of eligible voters are Latinx, and in Arizona, that number is 24%, Pew Research stated. With tight races in these states, even a small percentage more of Latino men voting for Trump than expected could move the state – and all of its Electoral College votes – into the Republican column.
[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic/Alexandra Brzozowski]