NEW YORK (Reuters) - Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump’s hardline rhetoric on immigration might not trigger the surge in Latino voter turnout for which many activists are hoping, according to a Pew Research Center survey released on Tuesday.
About 89 percent of Latino registered voters who were surveyed said they planned to vote in the Nov. 8 election, down from 91 percent who said in October 2012 that they were planning to vote in that year’s election. The decrease was within the survey’s plus or minus 4.6 percent margin of error.
The Pew report was based on a bilingual telephone survey of 1,507 Latino adults, including 804 registered voters, from Aug. 23 through Sept. 21.
In July 2008, four months before the presidential election that year, 94 percent of respondents said they planned to vote.
According to previous Pew research, about 81.7 percent of Hispanic registered voters cast ballots in 2012, the year Democratic President Barack Obama ran successfully against Republican Mitt Romney. That turnout was down from 84 percent in 2008, when Obama ran against Republican John McCain and won.
The latest Pew survey found that Democrats continued to maintain an edge as the party “more concerned” for Latinos.
Hillary Clinton is relying on a coalition of minority voters to help her against Trump, who launched his presidential bid last year by calling some Mexican immigrants rapists and promising to build a wall to stop them entering the United States.
Latinos, a growing segment of the U.S. electorate with rising influence in closely fought states like Florida and Nevada, tend to lean Democratic and favor Clinton heavily over Trump. According to the survey, some 58 percent support Clinton compared to 19 percent for Trump. Another 10 percent favor Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson and 6 percent prefer Green candidate Jill Stein.
Turnout among Latinos tends to run well below that of whites and African Americans, blunting their impact in political races.
A number of civic groups opposed to Trump have been working to ensure Latinos get to the polls.
Pew said that 27.3 million Latinos were eligible to vote. However, knowing how many of those people are registered is harder to measure because many states do not capture information such as race or ethnicity along with voter registration information.
In 2012 an estimated 11.2 million Latinos voted in the presidential election, according to Pew. In 2008 that figure was 9.7 million Latino voters.
While one must be a U.S. citizen to cast a ballot in U.S. elections, requirements for voter registration can vary by state.
Immigrants’ rights group America’s Voice, for example, launched a new Spanish language radio ad in Miami and Orlando for the next two weeks bashing Trump’s hardline immigration proposals, which include deporting all undocumented foreigners and making it harder for would-be immigrants to get visas.
In Nevada, the Culinary Union, which is heavily Latino, is working to ensure its members get to the polls, helping them with logistics like finding their polling stations and arranging transport.
“It could make the difference between a one point loss and a one point win,” said Yvanna Cancela, the union’s political director.
Sergio Garcia-Rios, a professor of Latino studies at Cornell University, said Clinton could be missing an opportunity to drive voter turnout further by not engaging Latino voters enough on policy.
“We can’t just rely on an anger reaction to Donald Trump,” he said. The challenge is “to create enthusiasm for Latinos to get out and vote.”
Reporting by Luciana Lopez; Editing by Cynthia Osterman