GOP share of Latino vote re­mains steady un­der Trump

The Mercury News Weekend - - NEWS - By Ni­cholas Ric­cardi The As­so­ci­ated Press

LITTLETON, COLO. » Pe­dro Gon­za­lez has faith in Don­ald Trump and his party.

The 55-year- old Colom­bian im­mi­grant is a pas­tor at an evan­gel­i­cal church in sub­ur­ban Den­ver. Ini­tially re­pelled by Trump in 2016, he’s been heart­ened by the pres­i­dent’s steps to pro­tect reli­gious groups and ap­point judges who op­pose abor­tion rights. More im­por­tant, Gon­za­lez sees Trump’s pres­i­dency as part of a di­vine plan.

“It doesn’t mat­ter what I think,” Gon­za­lez said of the pres­i­dent. “He was put there.”

Though Latino vot­ers are a key part of the Demo­cratic coali­tion, there is a larger bloc of re­li­able Repub­li­can Lati­nos than many think. And the GOP’s po­si­tion among Lati­nos has not weak­ened dur­ing the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion, de­spite the pres­i­dent’s rhetoric against im­mi­grants and the party’s shift to the right on im­mi­gra­tion.

In Novem­ber’s elec­tions, 32 per­cent of Lati­nos voted for Repub­li­cans, ac­cord­ing to AP VoteCast data. The sur­vey of more than 115,000 midterm vot­ers — in­clud­ing 7,738 Latino vot­ers — was con­ducted for The As­so­ci­ated Press by NORC at the Univer­sity of Chicago.

Other sur­veys also found roughly one-third of Lati­nos sup­port­ing the GOP. Data from the Pew Re­search Cen­ter and from exit polls sug­gests that a com­pa­ra­ble share of about 3 in 10 Latino vot­ers sup­ported Trump in 2016. That tracks the share of Lati­nos sup- port­ing Repub­li­cans for the last decade.

The sta­bil­ity of Repub­li­cans’ share of the Latino vote frus­trates Democrats, who say ac­tions like Trump’s fam­ily sep­a­ra­tion pol­icy and his de­mo­niza­tion of an im­mi­grant car­a­van should drive Lati­nos out of the GOP.

“The ques­tion is not are Democrats win­ning the His­panic vote — it’s why aren’t Democrats win­ning the His­panic vote 80-20 or 90-10 the way black vot­ers are?” said Fer­nand Amandi, a Mi­ami-based Demo­cratic poll­ster. He ar­gues Democrats must in­vest more in win­ning Latino vot­ers.

The VoteCast data shows that, like white vot­ers, Lati­nos are split by gen­der — 61 per­cent of men voted Demo­cratic in Novem­ber, while 69 per­cent of women did. And while Repub­li­can-lean­ing Lati­nos can be found ev­ery­where in the coun­try, two groups stand out as es­pe­cially likely to back the GOP — evan­gel­i­cals and vet­er­ans.

Evan­gel­i­cals com­prised about one-quar­ter of Latino vot­ers, and vet­er­ans were 13 per­cent. Both groups were about evenly split be­tween the two par­ties. Mike Madrid, a Repub­li­can strate­gist in Cal­i­for­nia, said those groups have re­li­ably pro­vided the GOP with many Latino votes for years.

Sacra­mento- based the Rev. Sam Ro­driguez, one of Trump’s spir­i­tual ad­vis­ers, said evan­gel­i­cal Lati­nos have a clear rea­son to vote Repub­li­can. “Why do 30 per­cent of Lati­nos still sup­port Trump? Be­cause of the Demo­cratic Party’s ob­ses­sion with abor­tion,” Ro- driguez said. “It’s life and reli­gious lib­erty and ev­ery­thing else fol­lows.”

Some con­ser­va­tive Lati­nos say their po­lit­i­cal lean­ings make them feel more like a mi­nor­ity than their eth­nic­ity does.

Irina Vi­lar­iño, 43, a Mi­ami restau­ran­teur and Cuban im­mi­grant, said she had pres­i­den­tial bumper stick­ers for Sen. John McCain, Mitt Rom­ney and Trump scratched off her car. She said she never suf­fered from dis­crim­i­na­tion grow­ing up in a pre­dom­i­nantly white south Florida com­mu­nity, “but I re­mem­ber dur­ing the McCain cam­paign be­ing dis­crim­i­nated against be­cause I sup­ported him.”

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