Hispanic turnout will rise by more than one percentage point in 2016 over the last presidential election but hover slightly below the community’s record-setting 2008 turnout, according to projections to be released Friday by a conservative Hispanic group.
The anticipated surge could bode poorly for Republican nominee Donald Trump, who received support from only 18% of Hispanic voters in a Wall Street Journal/NBC News/Telemundo poll last month.
The LIBRE Institute, which is tied to the Koch billionaire political network, estimates that 49.2 % of the Hispanic electorate – more than 13 million people — will vote in November. That projection is based on U.S. Census data released last month and Hispanic turnout trends in recent election cycles: It was 48% in 2012 and 49.9% when President Obama was first elected in 2008.
Even though Hispanic turnout dipped in 2012, the number of Hispanic voters rose by 1.5 million to 11.2 million because of population growth. This year, with both participation and the size of the electorate growing, Hispanic voters have the power to swing a close presidential election as well as tight Senate races in some states.
“The numbers are going up and that demands respect from both parties,” said Daniel Garza, executive director of the LIBRE Institute. “Republicans shouldn’t fear the numbers but they need to step up their game. Democrats can’t take the Latino vote for granted.”
The LIBRE Institute has criticized Mr. Trump’s proposals to end birthright citizenship and deport millions of illegal immigrants already living in the U.S. The broader Koch network has also repudiated Mr. Trump by focusing its resources on Senate and House races.
Mr. Garza said Mr. Trump needs to make an “aggressive, all-out effort” to boost his popularity in the Hispanic community. But the GOP nominee is currently not running any Spanish-language advertising, while Democrat Hillary Clinton has spent millions of dollars on Hispanic outreach.
The LIBRE Institute also projected Hispanic turnout in two Senate and 11 House races where Hispanic voters will play a major role.
In Florida, where Republican Sen. Marco Rubio is polling slightly ahead of Democratic challenger Patrick Murphy, the group predicts 65.4% Hispanic turnout, up from 62.2 % in 2012. That means Hispanics will make up one out of five Florida voters. The LIBRE Institute has endorsed Mr. Rubio, who is Cuban-American, and is running ads on his behalf.
In Nevada, 54.9% Hispanic turnout is predicted, up from 52% in 2012. Republican Rep. Joe Heck is running slightly ahead of Democrat Catherine Cortez Masto, who is Mexican-American. The LIBRE Institute opposes her campaign.