A poll released Thursday shows Latino registered voters are relatively divided between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders as the New York primary looms.
Latinos voters were essentially divided 48 percent for Sanders and 47 percent for Clinton in the poll conducted March 30-April 3 by Public Religion Research Institute in partnership with The Atlantic.
That finding comes as the two have been taking their campaigns into diverse New York, where the population is 19 percent Latino and 14 percent of the state’s eligible voters are Latino. Thus far Clinton has won in the heavy Latino states of Florida, Texas and Arizona. Sanders won in Colorado and edged past Clinton in Illinois, 50 percent to 49 percent, according to exit polls. The outcome in Nevada's caucus is in dispute - entrance polls give it to Sanders, but analysis of votes show Clinton won the heaviest Latino counties.
The PRRI poll results suggest Sanders could be gaining some ground in the community. The findings compare to a February NBC News/WSJ/Telemundo poll of Hispanic registered voters that found 56 percent of Latinos said they would vote for Clinton versus 39 percent who said they’d vote for Sanders.
Robert Jones, PRRI CEO, said Sanders benefits from the relative youth of the Latino electorate – millennials make up about 44 percent of it though their turnout rates are lower than other age groups, according to Pew Research Center.
“Latino voters are more likely to be younger than white votes and that’s been part of his appeal. He’s been able to be very strong among younger voters,” Jones said.
Erika Andiola, a spokeswoman for the Sanders campaign, said voters have learned about the candidate as his momentum has grown.
“At the beginning it wasn’t necessarily that people or voters didn’t support him, they didn’t necessarily know him as well as they did Secretary Clinton,” Andiola said. “It was about getting the word out.”
Clinton spokeswoman Xochitl Hinojosa called the poll a "complete outlier" noting Clinton's wins in Texas in Florida by large margins. "More than half of Democratic primary voters have cast their ballots and Hillary Clinton has received the overwhelming support of the Latino community," Hinojosa said.
Despite the nearly even split, the PRRI poll found that each candidate's coalition of supporters is 12 percent Latino. Nearly six in 10 of all Latinos surveyed, not just registered votes, have a favorable view of Clinton, compared to 54 percent for Sanders.
Clinton's strongest showing is among African American voters, who prefer her 63 percent to 30 percent.
“Latinos, while they have become over time a stronger, more reliable constituency, they don’t have the same kind of ties to Clinton that African Americans do,” Jones said.
“Those ties go way back to the ‘90s,” he said.
The poll also showed about 83 percent of Latino registered voters view Trump unfavorably. However, fewer Hispanics, 51 percent, than whites, 68 percent, viewed Ted Cruz unfavorably. A group of GOP Hispanics have publicly condemned Trump and Cruz over what they have said about immigrants and their immigration policies.
In a separate survey of older Latinos by the American Association of Retired Persons, AARP, results showed that 55 percent of Hispanic voters 50 and over identified themselves as Democratic, 25 percent as Republican and 20 percent as independent. But, just 18 percent consider themselves liberal, 31 percent moderate and 40 percent conservative.
The PRRI poll had an oversample of 144 Hispanic registered voters with a margin of error of plus or minus 9.4 percentage points. For questions asked of all Latinos, not just those registered to vote, the poll had an oversample of 263 Hispanics with a margin of error of plus or minus 7.1 percentage points.
The AARP poll included an oversample of 427 Hispanics and a margin of error of plus or minus 4.8 percentage points for Hispanics.