Polling shows Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden with an average 7-point lead over President Donald Trump among Hispanic voters in Florida.
But that’s not necessarily bad news for Trump in the contest for Florida’s 29 electoral votes.
The reason: To win the closely divided state, Biden probably needs to do better among Hispanic voters than the polling shows.
“For Biden to be in range in Florida, he needs to get over the 60% threshold of Latino support. To get there he will need to maximize his level of support among non-Cuban Hispanic voters, even if he earns a high level of support among Cubans,” Carlos Odio said in a virtual news briefing this week. Odio is co-founder and senior vice president of EquisLabs, Co-Founder & Senior Vice President of EquisLabs, a Democratic research firm that focuses on the Latino electorate.
There’s a dearth of public opinion polling that’s good enough to make concrete assessments of the two candidates' standings. But there are some clues. An average 10 public opinion polls of Florida voters released this month that break out the results for Hispanic voters shows Biden with 50% and Trump with 43%.
Among all voters, those same 10 polls show a 3-point lead for Biden 48.7% to 45.7%. The overall percentages for the presidential nominees isn’t dramatically different from the average of all Florida polls reported by FiveThirtyEight, which has Biden ahead of Trump, 48.3% to 46.3%.
Exit polls from 2016 show Hillary Clinton beat Trump 62% to 35% among Hispanic voters in Florida. One caveat: data in exit polls are oftentimes shaky.
Clearly Biden wants to do better among Hispanic voters.
And Trump wants to maximize his share of the vote. That helps explain why:
He’s dangled the possibility of appointing a Cuban-Americna Floridian, federal appeals court Judge Barbara Lagoa, to the U.S. Supreme Court.
He released $13 billion last week -- less than two months before Election Day -- in aid to Puerto Rico for damage from Hurricane Maria, which struck three years ago, after years of actions disparaging the island and musing about selling it. Puerto Ricans are an important voting bloc in Central Florida.
He announced additional financial restrictions on Cuba at a White House event on Wednesday featuring veterans of the failed 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion of. Cuban-Americans are an important voting bloc in Miami-Dade County.
He’s hosting a Latinos for Trump event Friday in Doral. Courting Hispanic voters in Florida has been a longtime priority of the Trump campaign. Latinos for Trump was launched by Vice President Mike Pence on a visit to Miami-Dade County in 2019. “Hola Miami,” Pence began, before offering repeated praise for Trump and “our great Latino and Hispanic communities.”
Last week, during his first campaign visit to Florida in 2020, Biden held a Hispanic Heritage Month event in Kissimmee where he said he was committed to immigration reform and announced a plan to support Puerto Rico’s economy.
On Wednesday, the Biden campaign unveiled Comadre a Comadre, a nationwide Latina voter engagement effort. One of the leaders was U.S. Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, a Miami-Dade County Democrat. During her first visit to Florida as Biden’s running mate, vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris held a photo-op at a restaurant in Doral, which is home to a large Venezuelan community.
The 2018 race for U.S. Senate illustrates the potential for candidates who pay attention to Hispanic voters and the peril for candidates who don’t. During his eight years as governor, Rick Scott assiduously courted the Hispanic electorate, including by learning Spanish. And he championed efforts to aid Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria devastated the island in 207.
U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., didn’t have as vigorous an effort among Hispanic -- and he was defeated by Scott.
Many public opinion polls break out results for Hispanic voters, but the results may not be terribly accurate. That’s because the share of Hispanic voters -- or any group, such as seniors or South Florida residents -- in even a high-quality state poll is so small that the margin of error is high.
For example, the Sept. 15 Monmouth University Florida poll reported a margin of error for its overall survey of 428 voters was plus or minus 5 percentage points. But for the smaller sample of 108 Hispanic voters, the margin of error was plus or minus 9 percentage points.
It’s also difficult to poll Hispanic voters because it’s an enormously diverse demographic group, with large populations of Cuban-American and Puerto Rican voters, plus people whose backgrounds are from Colombia, Mexico, Nicaragua, Venezuela and other countries.
One large statewide poll of Hispanic voters found Biden was leading Trump 53% to 47%. The survey from Equis was conducted from Aug. 20 to 25 among 1,081 Hispanic voters in Florida, and released on Sept. 4.
Odio Equis predicted Biden’s Hispanic support would fall somewhere between the levels won by Democrats in 2018 and 2016.
Anthony Man can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @browardpolitics
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