A majority of Latino leaders and activists say they will vote for Hillary Clinton, though there was skepticism that her presidency would be able to bring a marked increase in Latino political power or the certainty of comprehensive immigration reform.
With the Presidential elections just a few months away, the National Institute for Latino Policy (NiLP) conducted an online survey of close to 400 Latino opinion leaders from 31 states, Puerto Rico and Guam. In contrast to polls done of the general Latino population, this survey of this community's leadership is the only ongoing examination of its kind of the views on the election from this important sector of Mexican, Puerto Rican and other Latino opinion leaders.
Among the most important findings:
Most (88 to 63 percent) project that the majority of Latinos will be voting for Hillary Clinton for President, Even among those who are Republicans, the largest percentage, 46 percent, believe the majority of Latinos will be voting for Clinton.
The majority of Mexican and Puerto Rican and largest percentage of Other Latino opinion leaders think Donald Trump will not be able to beat Clinton in November. However, from 24-29 percent believe Trump can win the election.
Asked why they would vote for Clinton, the main reason given by the Puerto Rican and "Other" Latino opinion leaders was she was "the lesser of two evils." Among the Mexican opinion leaders, it was more her experience in Washington, DC.
Asked why they would not vote for Clinton, the main reason they gave was that her "neo-liberal politics are too corporate-oriented."
All three groups of Latino opinion leaders expressed great skepticism about what Clinton would accomplish for Latinos if she were elected President. On the possibility of the adoption of comprehensive immigration reform, about three-quarters were only "somewhat" or "not all that confident."
Regarding her ability to increase Latino political power through her appointments, close to three-quarters were only "somewhat" or "not all that confident." However, they expressed much greater skepticism about the prospects for immigration reform.
As to Hillary Clinton's selection of a non-Latino running mate as Vice President, the Latino opinion leaders were divided. The largest percentages felt that this was "a missed opportunity to diversify the ticket," followed by the feeling that it was a "great choice for a variety of reasons."
Large majorities of the Latino opinion leaders felt that Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party were taking the Latino voter "for granted." Only about one-third thought they were taking Latinos seriously. Even among the Latino opinion leaders who identified as Democrats, the majority (54 percent) thinks their party takes Latinos for granted.
Asked about the credibility of the leader's conservative Latino organizations in the Latino community, over 80 percent of the Latino opinion leaders stated either that none of them do, or they never heard of these groups. Of those most mentioned as credible were the Congressional Hispanic Leadership Institute (CHLI), Congressional Hispanic Conference and the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference.
Because of the feeling that the parties take the Latino voter for granted and the cynicism that exists about the candidate of the two major parties, the Latino opinion leaders were asked if they thought a third party would be a viable option for Latinos. Large majorities of all three groups of Latino opinion leaders felt that it was not.
More than three-quarters of the Latino opinion leaders expressed negative views about Latinos who support Trump for President. The largest percentages felt that "they are working against the best interests of the Latino community." On the other hand, from 21-24 percent felt that |it is their right to support whomever they want."
"The failure of the public school system to adequately educate Latino youth" was identified by the Latino opinion leaders as the most important issue in the Latino community. This was followed by the "high Latino poverty rate." For the Mexican and Other Latino opinion leaders, "the broken immigration system" came in third.
Because of the issue of the massive $72 billion debt crisis facing Puerto Rico, the Latino opinion leaders were asked what they thought the political status of Puerto Rico would be in the next decade. The largest percentages, close to half, felt that its status would remain the same, as a Commonwealth. The second largest group (11-23 percent) felt that it would become an "enhanced Commonwealth."
With the greater visibility of celebrities in this year's Presidential race, the Latino opinion leaders were asked which celebrity has been the most effective political advocate. Most mentioned overall was Eva Longoria, followed by Rosario Dawson. For the Puerto Rican opinion leaders, their top mention was Lin-Manuel Miranda.
The full report, "Latino Opinion Leaders on the Presidential Election --- August 2016," can be downloaded for free from the website of the National Institute for Latino Policy, www.latinopolicy.org.
Angelo Falcón is President of the National Institute for Latino Policy (NiLP). He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.