WASHINGTON — Democrats have a chance to win big in this year’s midterms by channeling Latino voters’ anger at President Donald Trump’s immigration and health care agenda, according to the findings of a Democratic-funded study released Tuesday.
But first, they’ll have to convince Latinos their vote will mean something.
The study found “significant challenges for Democrats” in convincing Latino voters that a Democrat-controlled Congress would affect important changes. But there is “also an immense opportunity” for Democrats to mobilize Latinos who oppose the Trump administration’s policies and rhetoric, the authors said.
Political polling firm Latino Decisions conducted the research, which was commissioned by three top Democratic fundraising groups: the House Majority PAC, Priorities USA and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Bold PAC.
Latino Decisions analyzed opinion data from focus groups and a poll of 1,000 Latino registered voters. They found Latino voters are “exceedingly angry at the state of politics today,” particularly regarding the Trump administration’s hard-line immigration policies and health care rollback efforts.
The administration’s separation of migrant families at the border angered 87 percent of Latino voters polled for the study. Respondents overwhelmingly opposed the Trump administration’s decision to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program and Trump’s own rhetoric regarding undocumented immigrants.
The same percentage also said the Republican health care plan angered them. Latinos are more likely than other voters to lack insurance, the study said, and they received greater gains in coverage from the Affordable Care Act than other populations.
However, Democrats cannot necessarily count on Latino support to carry them in 2018, the study said.
“Participants understand the importance of voting, but candidates and parties do not communicate a clear agenda to Latinos,” the authors wrote.
Democrats lead Republicans 67 percent to 22 percent among Latinos, according to the poll. But only 44 percent of Latino respondents said they were ‘certain’ they will vote for Democrats, and only 53 percent said they were certain to vote in November at all.
Democratic candidates should avoid “generalities and buzzwords,” the authors said, and instead take a “clear stand” on reversing Trump’s immigration policies. The study also advocated tailored outreach to Latino voters through Spanish TV and radio stations and bilingual advertisements promoting “clear takeaways on what specifically will change by voting in 2018.”
Voter education on Washington issues is key for mobilizing support, according to the study, because most of the voters are not as politically knowledgeable and engaged as Democrats may assume. On the whole, they are not “news junkies” despite what they say about their own news-consumption habits, the authors wrote.
While a growing population of Latino voters is expected to be a long-term electoral boon for Democrats, particularly in Southern states, Latino voter participation continues to lag behind other demographics.
Still, some Democrats saw the success of Latino candidates in 2016 as a bright spot in an otherwise bleak election for the party. Catherine Cortez Masto of Nevada became the nation’s first Latina senator that year, alongside six other new members of Latino descent.
Stephanie Akin contributed to this report.
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