Seventy percent of Latinos gave President Donald Trump poor marks for his handling of the coronavirus, while 66 percent who are registered to vote said they support Joe Biden, according to a poll released Monday as Democrats began their virtual national convention.
Latino registered voters’ support for Biden, who will officially accept the party’s nomination this week, rose 5 percentage points from May, while Latinos' disapproval of Trump was up 14 percentage points over the same four months, the poll showed.
“Responding to COVID-19 is the gorilla at the table. It is a giant factor that Latinos are considering as the most important issue that they are facing. It eclipses health care costs and unemployment,” said Gary Segura, a principal with Latino Decisions polling firm, which conducted the poll.
The poll showed that 73 percent of respondents agreed that Trump ignored the early warning signs of the virus and downplayed its seriousness.
“Latinos view Trump’s poor response to the pandemic as the cause of the crisis,” Segura said.
The poll was conducted for UnidosUS, a national Latino advocacy group and SOMOS Community Care, a health care provider for Medicaid enrollees, the third in a series of polls by the groups. Latino Decisions co founder Matt Barreto is working for the Biden campaign, but is separating himself from the firm’s polling work and vice versa while he is with the campaign.
"This is a poll that suggests that we are watching, that the Latino community is watching, that as we lead into the first of two conventions of our national parties, that we will be looking on those stages at who has our back ... who will help us lead our community from crisis to recovery," said Henry Muñoz, a former Democratic Party official who has funded major Latino advocacy initiatives and is a co-founder of SOMOS. Muñoz also is a Biden supporter.
Biden has been playing catch-up to Hilary Clinton and Barack Obama in support from the Latino community, and while he leads Trump, exit polls in 2016 showed Trump’s election victory included backing from 28 percent of Latino voters. Some disagreed with the exit poll numbers, including Latino Decisions, and said his support was closer to 18 percent.
Twenty-four percent of Latinos backed Trump. Segura said with 10 percent of those polled undecided, the results in this poll do not necessarily mean that the Latino vote is in the same place as it was in 2016.
In Florida, where larger shares of Latinos vote Republican, Biden’s lead is smaller, 55 percent to 41 percent, compared to Arizona where he leads 63 percent to Trump’s 29 percent.
Trump was hoping to see increased Latino backing because of a decadelong downslide in Latino unemployment, which hit 4.4 percent in February. But when the coronavirus forced the shutdown of businesses, Latino unemployment skyrocketed to 18.9 percentin April.
That number had fallen to 11.4 percent by July, while Latinos experienced surges in infections and hospitalizations and a rise in deaths. Many Latinos work in what are considered "essential" industries.
While Democrats say the high unemployment and illnesses would have been less drastic had Trump better managed the pandemic, Republicans are arguing that the low unemployment rate before the shutdowns shows he can return the pandemic-rocked economy to prosperity.
Nearly three-quarters of Latinos think Trump delayed early warning signs and "because of his incomplete response thousands of Americans are dead," up from 67 percent in May, the pollsters said.
The pandemic and resulting national economic malaise will take center stage in the re-scripted Democratic convention that will feature a lineup of speakers, including some Latinos — although some argue not enough. It will culminate with Biden accepting the nomination virtually from Delaware, his home state.
On Tuesday, Biden will be speaking with "Hamilton" composer Lin-Manuel Miranda at a virtual "community conversation" called "The Future Is Now," organized by the Latino Victory Project, which will include other high-profile Latino celebrities and activists such as America Ferrera and the chef Jose Andrés.
Worries over jobs, coronavirus
Latinos make up the largest share of the U.S. population that lacks health care coverage and have higher morbidity rates than the overall population in some diseases that have made coronavirus deadlier for some people, like diabetes.
According to the poll, half of Latinos said they had their pay cut or lost a job, or are closing a business they own or had to close one.
Nearly half said they, someone in their home, a family member or someone they know has become ill because of the coronavirus, up from 25 percent in May.
Nineteen percent in this month’s poll said the family member or person that they knew had died, while 24 percent said the person was hospitalized.
“These giant increases are reflective of a community that’s caught in a double bind, exposed through the place of work, or unemployed because of their place of work is shut down," Segura said. "It’s either risky work or no work at all."
The poll found that 69 percent of Latinos are certain they will vote and 12 percent would probably vote, while another 18 percent said their chances of voting were 50-50, or they probably or definitely wouldn’t vote.
Issues on Latino voter participation, mail-in voting
Somewhat worrisome for Democrats, however, is that in Pennsylvania, more than a quarter of registered Latino voters said their chances of voting or that they probably would not or definitely would not vote were 50-50.
Further showing the impact of the coronavirus on the community, nearly three-quarters expressed some measure of concern that they would be exposed to the coronavirus if they voted in person in November. Among Texas Latinos polled, 47 percent said they were very concerned.
Forty percent of all Latinos polled said they don’t know how to go about requesting a mail-in ballot in their state. The share not knowing that process was 73 percent in Arizona, a critical swing state where any voter can request a ballot.
The process for getting a ballot is becoming even more confusing in states as Trump has tried to block funding for the postal service and his appointee for postmaster general, Louis DeJoy, has made changes at postal facilities leading to potential delays in delivery of mail-in ballots in several states and general chaos.
The advocates said those numbers show the need for greater urgency in reaching out to Latino voters and mobilizing the community.
“In the midst of this political climate, as the parties head into their respective conventions, 64 percent of Latino registered voters said they have not received any contact,” from a party about voting, said Janet Murguía, UnidosUS president and CEO. “That needs to change immediately.”
The poll is based on interviews conducted Aug. 7-15 with 1,842 randomly selected Latino adults in Spanish — 36 percent of the interviews — and English, by cellphone, landline or online. Questions asked of the full sample have a margin of error of plus or minus 2.3 percent and for registered voters, 1,488, plus or minus 2.5 percent. For state-specific results, the margin of error is plus or minus 6.3 percent.