Politics & Government

Clinton hits Obama levels of support among Florida Hispanics, poll shows

Hillary Clinton has hit a key marker among Florida Hispanics, according to a new poll: She’s reached the level of popularity that helped President Barack Obama win the nation’s largest battleground state in 2012.

Sixty percent of Florida Latinos favor Clinton, the Univision News poll shows. That’s the same number that voted for Obama four years ago, according to exit polls from that election.

Thirty percent of Hispanics intend to vote for Donald Trump. Compare that to Mitt Romney, who drew 39 percent in 2012.

“If Hillary Clinton goes on to win the state of Florida — and with that, the presidency — she will owe a huge debt to historic support by Hispanics,” said Fernand Amandi, a Democrat of Bendixen & Amandi International, which conducted the survey along with the Tarrance Group, a Republican firm.

He called it an “ominous” sign for Republicans: “This is now the third cycle in a row where the Hispanic vote has gone overwhelmingly to the Democratic nominee.”

The pollsters have been surveying the Hispanic electorate in Florida, Arizona and Nevada since September. The most recent Florida results come from 800 registered voters polled from Oct. 26-30. The poll’s error margin is plus-or-minus 3.5 percentage points.

Returns of ballots cast early in person and by mail suggest big numbers of Hispanics are voting in Florida, where they now make up nearly 16 percent of the electorate. Polls of all Florida voters show the nation’s largest swing state too close to call.

While Clinton has steadily improved among the state’s Hispanics over the past three months, she’s lost ground recently with Cuban Americans, the most conservative of Latinos, who make up nearly three-quarters of registered Republicans in Miami-Dade County.

Florida Cuban Americans prefer Trump to Clinton by 49-42 percent. Last month, they were evenly divided at 41 percent. Since then, Trump made several overtures to Miami’s exile community, blasting Obama’s Cuba policy, meeting privately with influential leaders and winning the endorsement of Bay of Pigs veterans.

In contrast, Florida Puerto Ricans — who make up the bulk of Hispanics around the Orlando area — favor Clinton to Trump by 71-19 percent.

When it comes to the U.S. Senate race, Democrat Patrick Murphy has opened a slightly wider lead over Republican Marco Rubio among Hispanics. Murphy now leads by 50-44 percent — a 6-point lead, compared to Clinton’s 30-point advantage over Trump.

“Patrick Murphy is going to lose this race for the Senate because he is dramatically under-performing with his voters, particularly compared to the presidential nominee,” Amandi said.

Murphy is still unknown by 34 percent of Hispanics, according to the poll — an improvement over the 52 percent who didn’t recognize him last month. In the final weeks of the race, Murphy hired a Hispanic strategist, Freddy Balsera, and launched TV and radio ads in Spanish.

Rubio, who is bilingual and Cuban-American, remains better known and better liked among Latinos whose dominant language is Spanish, the poll shows. Cuban Americans prefer Rubio to Murphy by 59-36 percent, while Puerto Ricans prefer Murphy to Rubio by 51-39 percent. Other Hispanics who are neither Cuban American nor Puerto Rican favor Murphy to Rubio by 60-33 percent.

As for whether they want to legalize medical marijuana, Hispanics in the poll said yes, by 66-30 percent.