A slew of recent polls from battlegrounds across the country seem to indicate that former Vice President Joe Biden’s lackluster standing among Latino voters could end up costing him the White House.
Since jumping into the 2020 race, the former vice president has struggled to build support among Latinos, especially younger segments of the community—many of whom favored Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) during the Democrat primary.
Most of Biden’s trouble with Latino voters stems from the Obama administration’s record of deporting three million illegal aliens between 2009 and 2017. Biden, who ran heavily on his ties to the former president during the primaries, has been forced to defend the Obama-era deportations time and again.
The defense has only been accentuated by the often antagonistic manner that Biden has taken with immigration activists, as exhibited last November during a particularly heated interaction on the campaign trail.
“I will not stop all deportations. I will prioritize deportations, only people who have committed a felony or a serious crime,” Biden told an activist from Movimiento Cosecha, before suggesting that if he was not happy with the stance, he “should vote for [President Donald] Trump.”
Moments like that potentially explain why a poll released this week shows the former vice president lagging former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s 2016 among Latinos voters in some prime battlegrounds, while doing better in others.
The poll, conducted by SOMOS US and Latino Decisions, surveyed Latino voters nationwide and in the prime swing states of Arizona, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, and Florida. Overall, the poll indicates that if the election were held today, Biden would receive 66 percent support from Latinos compared to Trump’s 24 percent. The results are nearly similar to exit polling from the 2016 race in which Clinton won 66 percent of Latinos to Trump’s 28 percent.
At the state level, though, the results become murky. In Arizona, Biden receives 63 percent from Latinos, compared to the president’s 29 percent. The figure is slightly higher than the 61 percent Clinton garnered against Trump (31 percent) among the state’s Hispanic population. Although the numbers appear positive for Biden, it is unclear if the two percent gain will hold until election day or if it will be enough to swing Arizona into the Democrat column. In 2016, Trump won the state by more than three percentage points after record turnout and a last-minute effort spending rush by Clinton.
While the poll provides some optimistic news for Biden in Arizona, the reverse is true for Pennsylvania and Florida. In both states, the former vice president does significantly worse than Clinton.
Pennsylvania, in particular, shows Biden garnering only 59 percent to Trump’s 28 percent among the state’s Latino voters. In 2016, on the other hand, Clinton carried 74 percent to Trump’s 21 percent, while still managing to lose the state by more than 50,000 votes.
Similarly, in Florida Biden receives 55 percent among Hispanics to Trump’s 41 percent. Clinton in 2016, meanwhile, received 62 percent to Trump’s 35 percent. The numbers in Florida are notably worrisome given that the state has more than 3.14 million eligible Latino voters, many of whom reside in counties Biden must win if he has any hope of carrying the state this November.
The one bright spot for Biden appears to be North Carolina. The poll found the former vice president leads Trump among Latinos there by nearly 30 percentage points (61 percent to 24 percent). In 2016, the results were much tighter, with Clinton taking 57 percent of the state’s Latino voters, compared to Trump’s 40 percent. Overall, Trump only won the state by a little over two percentage points.
While the numbers appear strong, it must be noted that of the three swing states surveyed, North Carolina has the lowest number of eligible Latino voters. As the Pew Research center notes, Latinos make up 9.6 percent of the Tar Heel state’s total population, but only 4.4 percent of its eligible voters. In comparison, Latinos are 5.3 percent of eligible voters in Pennsylvania, 20.5 percent in Florida, and 23.6 percent in Arizona.
The results paint a troubling picture for Biden, who to date has led Trump in most national polls. Given that Trump was able to win the White House by flipping Democrat-leaning blue-collar workers and getting better than expected support among Latinos and black voters, any decrease in Biden’s base could prove costly.
Further, the poll poses a broader challenge for Democrats as they seek to build a coalition that lasts longer than this election cycle. This was exhibited on Tuesday, as former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro warned his party they could lose ground among Latinos even if Biden were to win.
“I think that we could win the battle and lose the war,” Castro told Axios on HBO. “We could win in November, but you could see a potential slide of Latino support for Democrats.”