Latinos at the Polls

October 4, 2016

The race for the president of the United States is nearing the finish line and Republican candidate Donald J. Trump and Democrat opponent Hillary Clinton have been pushing harder than ever to win the votes of the American people.  Most recently, this week CNN aired what was the most-watched presidential debate in the history of the United States.  While both candidates muddled through their respective weaknesses, one story that was exposed by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has since dealt a serious blow to entrepreneur Donald Trump’s campaign.

Clinton sparked the outrage of many after revealing that Trump had made racist and sexist remarks to his 1996 “Miss Universe” winner, Alicia Machado from Venezuela.  After a weight gain following the beauty pageant, Ms. Machado was called “Miss Piggy” and claimed she was also frequently called “Miss Housekeeping” as a poor joke regarding her Latina heritage (Diaz 2016).

The former Miss Venezuela, though, now a U.S. citizen with voting rights, is employing this discrimination as ammunition to round up more support for Clinton in the upcoming election.  She told CNN’s Anderson Cooper, “We cannot accept no more insults for my Latin community.  No more insults for the women.  I know very well Mr. Trump and I can see the same person that I met 20 years ago” (Diaz 2016).

Regrettably for Mr. Trump, it turns out Machado is just one individual in a vast community of Hispanic voters.  In fact, the U.S. Hispanic population now numbers 57 million; they are the fastest-growing racial group in the country second only to Asians and make up 18 percent of the U.S. population (Krogstad 2016).  Among that population, 27.3 million Hispanics are projected to be eligible voters in the 2016 election – a number that is only going to grow as 44 percent of this 27.3 is comprised of Hispanic millennials. Since the median age of U.S. born Latinos is only 19 it is predicted that Latino youth will be the drivers of their community’s votes for the next few decades (Krogstad 2016).  This could also spell trouble for the Republican party as a whole since 70 percent of Latino voters responded that Trump has made the GOP more hostile to their community (Damore 2016).

It has also been found that much of the foreign born population are actually women who are immigrating to the U.S. at higher rates than men (NALEO). Latinas have been yielding much higher participation rates in politics than their male counterparts, and this could prove to be detrimental to whichever campaign they oppose as the U.S. partisan gender gap has now been reinforced by voting tendencies of minority women as seen in the 2012 election (Bejarano 2014).

Regardless of gender, though, recent polls show that Latino voters are particularly preoccupied with this year’s election.  76 percent of survey respondents said that they believed it is more important that they vote this year as opposed to in 2012.  When asked an open-ended follow up question on the reasoning behind this, 51 percent replied as an effort to stop Trump.  The same survey uncovered that 68 percent of respondents found Clinton very or somewhat favorable and 21 percent held a very or somewhat favorable view of Trump.  As a point of reference, 75 percent said they currently have a somewhat or very favorable view of President Obama (Damore 2016).  

This is not to say that Trump does not enjoy any Latino support; the organization Latinos for Trump is still very actively reaching out to communities, and other Latinos have simply been expressing their support of Trump’s policies, in particular a population on the border that are urging for stricter immigration laws.  In an interview with CBS News one such Mexican-American, Tony Castañeda, told reporters, "A lot of my relatives are still waiting in line on the Mexican side... They're paying their fees. They're submitting their paperwork. They're waiting their period of time.  Relatives of mine have been on the line for 15 years, trying to get across, trying to get their status. And some people just come in the middle of the night, and then want to live and hide and benefit from a lot of things we have in this country, taking it away from American citizens." (Capatides 2016)

On the other hand, Janet Murguía, president and CEO of NCLR (National Council of La Raza), says that “from denigrating Mexican Americans as ‘criminals, rapists, and drug dealers’ to questioning the integrity of an American judge based solely on his Latino heritage, Trump has demonized our community and advanced the dark and baseless notion that Latinos are a threat, and not a strength, to our country.”  (Murguía 2016)

Assuming that she has a number of supporters in these sentiments, Trump faces some trouble as people of Mexican origin make up two-thirds, or 35.3 million, of the country’s Hispanics.  Because of a large increase in migration to the U.S. mainland, citizens of Puerto Rican origin are the next largest group at 5.3 million (Krogstad 2016).  Florida, which is known to be a battleground state in the presidential election, has received the majority of these migrants (Krogstad 2016).


Sources for this Article


Damore, F. David. “New Poll Results: America’s Voice/LD 2016 National Latino Voter Survey”. 02 September 2016. Latino Decisions. Available at: (Accessed September 29, 2016).

Krogstad, Lopez, López, Passel, and Patten. “Millennials Make Up Almost Half of Latino Eligible Voters in 2016”. 19 January 2016. Pew Research Center. Available at: (Accessed September 29, 2016).

Bejarano, Christina. “The Latino Gender Gap in U.S. Politics”. 19 February 2014. Latino Decisions. Available at: (Accessed September 29, 2016)

Diaz, Daniella. “Miss Universe strikes back”. 28 September 2016. CNN Politics. Available at: (Accessed September 29, 2016)

Krogstad, Jens Manuel. “10 Facts for National Hispanic Heritage Month”. 15 September 2016. Pew Research Center. Available at: (Accessed September 29, 2016)

Capatides, Christina. “Meet the Mexican-Americans who agree with Trump on Immigration”. 01 June 2016. CBS News. Available at: (Accessed September 29, 2016)

Murguía, Janet. “How Donald Trump Has Demonized the Latino Community”. 25 September 2016. News Week. Available at: (Accessed September 29, 2016)


About Author(s)

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Rachel Rozak
Rachel Rozak is an undergraduate at the University of Pittsburgh where she majors in Spanish and marketing and is additionally pursuing a minor in Portuguese and a certificate in Latin American studies. Through her studies she quickly became passionate about Latin America and its people and culture. She hopes to continue finding ways to blend her business skills with this love through opportunities like her recent summer internship abroad in Solola, Guatemala and semester of studies abroad in Heredia, Costa Rica.