Poll: Majority of Swing Voters Think Debate Answers in Spanish Are ‘Pandering’

MIAMI, FL - JUNE 26: Democratic presidential candidate and former U.S. Representative Beto ORourke is displayed on a monitor inside the spin room during the first Democratic presidential primary debate for the 2020 election at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts, June 26, 2019 in Miami, Florida. A …
Drew Angerer/Getty Images

A poll released Thursday reveals a majority of independent voters say 2020 White House candidates speaking Spanish during a presidential debate is “pandering.”

According to the YouGov survey conducted between June 21 and 24, 51 percent of respondents who identify as swing voters believe speaking Spanish during a debate is “pandering,” while 25 percent view the move act as “respectful.” Twenty-four percent of independents say they “don’t know” how they feel about contenders communicating in Spanish.

As for Democrat respondents, 46 percent stated speaking Spanish during a debate was “respectful,” in contrast to 32 percent who view the act as “pandering.” Further, thirty-seven percent of Hispanic adults believe the use of is Spanish for the setting is “respectful” and 27 percent say it’s “pandering.”

Overall, the poll said 42 percent of U.S. adults view speaking Spanish during the high-profile showcases is “pandering,” compared to 31 percent who believe it is “respectful.” Twenty-seven percent of U.S. adults told pollsters they were unsure about it.

YouGov surveyed 1,258 adults online with a break down of 330 independents, 305 Republicans, and 462 Democrats.

The figures come after former Rep. Robert Francis “Beto” O’Rourke (D-TX) made headlines for answering his first question during Wednesday’s first 2020 Democrat presidential debate in both English and Spanish.

The Texas Democrat contended in English, “this economy has got to work for everyone,” and that, right now, it isn’t. Then he switched to Spanish, saying in that language that “we need to include everyone” in a booming national economy.

O’Rourke, who hails from the Texas-Mexico border city of El Paso, spoke in Spanish at length, then switched back to English. He claimed the Trump administration has focused on helping the wealthy and large corporations over everyday Americans — echoing similar sentiments of the other Democrats on stage.

In addition to O’Rourke, Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) also spoke Spanish, as did Obama-era Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro, who uttered a brief greeting during his final statement.

O’Rourke’s use of Spanish garnered mockery from political observers alike, including late-night talk show hosts. The Late Show’s Stephen Colbert called the Texas Democrat’s performance a “linguistic surprise” before expressing confusion over his thinking for not just sticking to English. “[I’m] not entirely sure why he felt he had to do that,” Colbert said to laughter from the audience. “He’s either trying to lock up the Hispanic vote or he’s running for embarrassing dad at a Mexican restaurant.”

Despite the panning of his debate performance from network pundits such Van Jones, O’Rourke contended Thursday that he feels he not only held his own but does not see much room for improvement.

“I’d give myself an ‘A,’” O’Rourke said of his performance during an appearance on CNN’s New Day.

“I described why I’m doing this, who I’m doing it for, the people that inspired me, and how we’re going to meet these challenges. And it felt like I was able to get that across,” he added.


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