Hillary Clinton

Florida Hispanics prefer Clinton over Trump, but she still has work to do

Hillary Clinton introduces Virginia Senator Tim Kaine as her vice presidential running mate at Florida International University in July.
Hillary Clinton introduces Virginia Senator Tim Kaine as her vice presidential running mate at Florida International University in July. adiaz@miamiherald.com

Florida Hispanic voters strongly favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump, according to a new poll, but she has yet to reach the level of support among Latinos that helped President Barack Obama win the battleground state — and reelection — four years ago.

The poll by Miami-based Bendixen & Amandi International and The Tarrance Group shows Clinton drawing 53 percent among Florida Hispanics, compared to Trump’s 29 percent. That’s a significant 24-point lead. But Obama hit 60 percent among Latinos in 2012, according to exit polls. He defeated Mitt Romney in Florida by a single percentage point.

“She should not only be where Obama is — she should be beating those numbers, and she’s not,” pollster Fernand Amandi told the Miami Herald. He conducted the survey for Univision News from Aug. 24-Sept. 3. Hispanics make up 15.4 percent of Florida voters.

Trump is more disliked than Romney, who ended up with 39 percent of Hispanic support. Clinton has a bigger, 24-point advantage now over Trump than the 21-point advantage Obama on Election Day had over Romney.

Yet Clinton has yet to fully capitalize on Trump’s unpopularity — perhaps because 46 percent of poll respondents consider the former secretary of state a “liar.” Still, they consider her more honest and trustworthy than Trump, by 41-27 percent.

Florida Hispanics hold a more positive opinion of Clinton: 58 percent view her favorably, and 40 percent view her unfavorably. Only 30 percent view Trump favorably, compared to 68 percent who view him unfavorably. Sixty-two percent view Trump “very unfavorably,” compared to 34 percent who have the same opinion of Clinton.

Two third-party candidates, Libertarian Gary Johnson and Green Party candidate Jill Stein, received 6 percent and 2 percent support in the poll, respectively.

The pollsters conducted interviews in English and Spanish of 400 Hispanic registered voters in Florida. The survey’s error margin is plus or minus 4.9 percentage points.

Among Hispanics, Clinton is also underperforming compared to Obama in three other heavily Hispanic swing states polled: Arizona, Colorado and Nevada. But she holds even wider leads over Trump in those states. Compare her 24-point margin in Florida with 50 percentage points in Arizona, 45 points in Colorado and 46 points in Nevada.

That’s largely due to Florida’s Cuban Americans.

“Hispanic likely voter opinion is very different in Florida than in the Western states tested, due in large part to the continuing influence of older Cuban voters, who have been loyally Republican for decades, making Florida more competitive among Hispanics,” the pollsters wrote in an analysis of their survey.

Some South Florida Democrats have privately said they worry that Clinton’s campaign is taking Hispanics for granted, banking on an anti-Trump sentiment driving Latinos to the polls. Clinton didn’t start advertising in Spanish in earnest in the state until last week — and one of her ads wasn’t about her proposals for any of Hispanics’ top issues. Instead it featured a Republican, Carlos Gutierrez, who served as commerce secretary under President George W. Bush, talking about why Trump was untrustworthy.

Clinton’s campaign put out two more ads Tuesday — one on TV, one on radio — and a super PAC backing her candidacy, Priorities USA, is also putting money behind Spanish-language TV spots in Florida.

Seventy-six percent of Florida Hispanics said they don’t intend to change their minds on the presidential race.

Clinton bested Trump in every poll question asking how she might handle issues important to Hispanics, from immigration to terrorism to the economy.

Forty-eight percent of Florida Hispanics believe Trump will allow some of those immigrants to stay in the country. Asked if Trump would change his tone on the trail, only 28 percent said yes.

In the U.S. Senate race, the Univision poll found Republican Marco Rubio ahead of Democrat Patrick Murphy by 46-39 percent among Hispanics, suggesting many Latino voters might split the ticket come November.

Rubio, who ran for president, is known by 94 percent of Hispanic poll respondents. By comparison, 58 percent said they didn’t know Murphy, a Jupiter congressman. Among Spanish-speaking voters, Rubio leads Murphy by 16 points.

Amandi, a Democrat, said the results suggest Murphy will “need a massive coat-tail effect” from Clinton to defeat the incumbent Rubio.

“Patrick Murphy can’t beat Marco Rubio,” Amandi said. “But Hillary Clinton can.”

The Florida poll also found Hispanics favor legalizing medical marijuana by 63-28 percent. To pass, the amendment must receive support from 60 percent of voters. The amendment failed to reach that threshold two years ago, in part because of reluctance among Hispanic voters. These results suggest approval on Nov. 8 is more likely.

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