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In Florida, A Look at the Evangelical Latino Vote

Image: US-VOTE-ELECTION
Voting booths set up and ready to receive voters inside a polling station in Christmas, Florida on November 8, 2016. GREGG NEWTON / AFP - Getty Images

Miami, Fla — In the competitive state of Florida, all eyes are on different voter groups — including Latino evangelicals.

For many in this group, whether to support a Democrat or Republican candidate for president is not as straightforward because they support a wide range of issues, and some are more associated with Republicans and some with Democrats. A Latino evangelical may be against abortion and same-sex marriage but support immigration and criminal justice reform.

Miami voter Jessica García said she will vote for Hillary Clinton because she doesn't agree with Donald Trump's stance on immigration.

In Kendall, an evangelical church leader who did not want to give his name out publicly said he supports Donald Trump because he is opposed to Obamacare; he said he has a family member who pays steep prices for health insurance even though he does not make a lot.

Gabriel Salguero, founder and president of the National Latino Evangelical Coalition and pastor at Iglesia El Calvario in Orlando, said the fact that evangelical Latinos "have a broader agenda" makes them the quintessential swing voter.

According to a 2013 survey by Pew Research Center, about 22 percent of Latinos are Protestant; 16 percent of them describe themselves as born-again evangelical. This is a group that practices high levels of religious commitment.

Among Hispanic registered voters surveyed by Pew in October, 47 percent said they favored Clinton and 34 percent said they favored Trump.

Around the same time "in 2012 we saw a similar split among Latino evangelicals," said Jessica Martinez, a senior researcher with Pew. Fifty percent said they would vote for Barack Obama, while 39 percent said they would vote for the Republican nominee, Mitt Romney.

Martinez said Latino evangelicals are more likely than Latino Catholics to lean toward the Republican party. But if you're comparing Latino evangelicals to non-white Hispanic protestants, Hispanics are more likely to say they lean toward the Democratic party, Martinez explained.

While many oppose abortion, they're against capital punishment, which more white evangelical protestants generally support for those convicted of murder.

Salguero estimates there are over 6 million Latino evangelicals in the U.S.

He said he doesn't believe they should endorse candidates but rather the candidates should endorse their agenda for the common good.

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