Record Latino vote turnout not enough to give Hillary a win

2016-11-10 12:09
Hillary Clinton. (AFP)

Hillary Clinton. (AFP)

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New York - Latino voters were supposed to be Hillary Clinton's secret weapon to win the White House, but a sizeable turnout in the community was not enough to propel her to victory.

What happened? For starters, fewer Latinos and African-Americans - groups that traditionally vote for Democrats - voted for Clinton than for then-senator Barack Obama in 2012.

And the increase of the Latino vote was mitigated by a higher turnout among white non-Hispanics and less educated people that supported Republican Donald Trump across the country.

The Latino vote "was no doubt a record, but we have to wait until April or May to have the definitive figures," said Mark Hugo Lopez, director of Hispanic Research at the Pew Research Center (PRC).

More than 27 million Latinos were registered to vote, but Lopez estimates that less than half - some 13 million - actually cast ballots.

'Hillary is not Obama'

A good 65% of self-declared Latino voters said that they supported Clinton, a former first lady, senator and secretary of state, while 29% supported Trump, a real estate businessman and reality TV star with zero political experience.

Moreover, many of Trump's proposals could be considered anti-Latino.

He proposed deporting the 11 million undocumented migrants in the country, the bulk of which are from Latin America and building a wall on the US border with Mexico.

He has said he also plans to re-negotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement - which includes Canada and Mexico - which he has blasted as a "disaster."

In the 2012 election, Obama won 72% of Latino voters, against rival Mitt Romney who won 27%.

"Hillary Clinton is not Barack Obama, they are different candidates," said Lopez.

"The Hispanic electorate is conservative, the Cuban-Americans are traditionally Republicans, there are some against abortion."

In general, Latinos who voted for Trump "are more likely to be Cuban-Americans, to have a higher income, to have a higher college education than other Hispanics," and tend to live in conservative states like Florida, Arizona or Texas.

On average, Clinton voters tend to have higher education and live in states that reliably vote for Democrats like New York and California.

Democrats were hoping that the Latino vote would be decisive for the first time in US history and help push Clinton to victories in places like Arizona and Florida, two states that she nevertheless lost on Tuesday.

Defeat in Florida

Both candidates focused heavily on Florida, Trump focusing on the more conservative enclaves, and Clinton focusing on votes from the Puerto Rican community, African-Americans and young Latinos.

In Florida, Clinton "was counting on a higher turnout and percentage of votes from Latinos and African Americans that she had," said University of Miami political scientist Gregory Koger.

On the other hand, white voter turnout "was higher than expected" for Trump, he said. And the Trump campaign "targeted rural voters, people in small towns, and they turnout for him in large numbers."

Clinton was unable to gain traction among conservative Cuban-Americans in Miami who are reliable voters.

Trump, however, promised to maintain the embargo against Cuba - an issue dear to their hearts - but behind the times given the US opening towards the communist island.

Younger Cuban-Americans are in general Democrats, or abstain from voting.

In Florida, 52% of Cuban-Americans voted for Trump against 47% for Clinton, according to exit polls by the group Latino Decision.

Diverse community

Lopez said that there was a nationwide "Trump effect": more Latinos came out to specifically vote against him, fuelled by anger over his harsh anti-immigrant rhetoric.

But this turnout was "not as big as people said it would be," Lopez said.

Nevertheless, the Latino vote has "grown in importance, and it continues to have a bigger role in a campaign."

Looking at demographic trends "that will continue for at least 20 years," he said.

And yet, there is no monolithic Latino vote in the US. The community is geographically and politically diverse.

Not all Latinos are immigrants, and not all are Mexicans.

For example Cubans, who have enjoyed a special migratory status since the 1960s, were not offended by Trump's talk about Mexico sending "criminals, drug dealers, rapists."

Twenty-five percent of third-generation Latinos even support building a wall on the US border with Mexico, and also support Trump's proposal for a mass deportation of undocumented migrants.

They also tend to be more conservative, and to be less religious than other Latinos.

Read more on:    donald trump  |  hillary clinton  |  us  |  us 2016 elections

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