As the number of Latino voters increases, so has the importance of winning their support for presidential candidates. One new study estimates that the winner in 2016 may need nearly half of the Latino vote -- a challenge for Republicans who have traditionally taken a far smaller share.
Candidates are well aware of this fact, and have made efforts to speak out about the minimum wage, immigration and health care -- topics of particular importance to the Latino community. Some have undertaken interesting efforts to win over this growing segment of the electorate. So what do Latino voters think of the 2016 candidate pool?
They generally like Latino candidates and Hillary Clinton, they’re not so keen on Donald Trump and, like everyone else, they don’t know how to feel about a lot of the candidates.
We averaged four recent polls from The Economist/YouGov, released on July 1, July 8, July 16 and July 24, to calculate the average percentage of Latino respondents who view each candidate favorably, the percentage of those who view the candidate unfavorably, and the percentage who say they don't know. Since each poll only has 1,000 participants, of which Latinos are a small fraction, and smaller samples have more polling error, using the last four polls together gives us a bigger sample and more certainty.
In the four-poll average, Hillary Clinton is seen most positively out of all the presidential candidates, with 63 percent of Latinos viewing her favorably. Republican Sens. Marco Rubio (Fla.) and Ted Cruz (Texas), the only two Latino candidates in the race, have the next highest average favorability among Latinos, at about 36 percent.
Not surprisingly, the candidate Latinos are least enthusiastic about is Trump. A sizable 70 percent of Latinos have an unfavorable view of the real-estate mogul, who recently asserted that he will "win the Hispanic vote" despite facing widespread criticism last month for his polarizing comments about Mexican immigrants. (All of these polls were conducted after Trump’s controversial comments about Mexican immigrants.) Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R) has the next highest unfavorability rating, at about 40 percent.
Trump and Clinton also happen to be the most well-known of the presidential contenders. Only about 9 percent of Latinos say they don't know how favorably they view those two candidates. To put that in perspective, more than 20 percent of Latinos say they don't know how favorably they view every other candidate.
The chart below orders candidates by the average percentage of Latinos who say they don't know how favorably they view the candidate (former Virginia Gov. Jim Gilmore is not included because he had not announced his candidacy at the time of these polls).
Since Latinos, like many people, say they don't yet know how they feel about their candidates, comparing candidates to each other using the chart above would be a bit tricky. How do you compare John Kasich and Bobby Jindal, when almost half of Latinos say they don't know how they feel about them? Pollsters take this into account by looking at candidates' net favorability, illustrated in the chart below.
It turns out, Latinos approve of Kasich and Jindal about the same amount. In general, Latinos aren't too fond of the Republican field -- almost every Republican candidate is more disliked than liked among Latino respondents.
An important caveat: Hispanic adults (and minority groups more generally) constitute one of the more challenging demographic groups for pollsters to reach. Moreover, YouGov conducts its polls in English, which may exclude a large portion of Spanish-speaking Hispanic adults from opting into its online surveys.
It's difficult to underscore the importance of the Latino vote in this upcoming election.
"In this nation, every 30 seconds, a Hispanic turns 18 and becomes an eligible voter," said Javier Palomarez, president and CEO of the United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, in an interview earlier this year with MSNBC's José Díaz-Balart. "So if you want to run for the White House, if you want to assume that role as the highest leader in this nation, you'd do well to begin to engage America's burgeoning Hispanic community."