NEW YORK (Reuters) – Latinos appear less likely to vote in this year’s presidential race than in either of the past two elections, according to a Pew Research Center study released on Tuesday, even as immigrant rights groups enraged by Republican Donald Trump’s rhetoric seek to drive them to the polls.
The results could signal a challenge for Democrat Hillary Clinton as she relies on a coalition of minority voters to help her against the brash New York businessman, who launched his presidential bid last year by calling some Mexican immigrants rapists and promising to build a wall to stop them.
About 89 percent of Latino registered voters said they plan to vote in the Nov. 8 election, according to the poll, down from 91 percent in an October 2012 survey and 94 percent in a July 2008 survey. Another 10 percent said they would not vote in the upcoming election, and 1 percent said they did not know yet.
By comparison, some 96 percent of the total U.S. population of registered voters plans to vote on Nov. 8, Pew said.
Latinos, a rapidly 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. Some 58 percent support Clinton compared to 19 percent for Trump, according to the survey. Another 10 percent favor Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson and 6 percent prefer Green candidate Jill Stein.
But 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.
Immigrants’ rights group America’s Voice, for example, launched a new Spanish language radio ad in Miami and Orlando stations 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, however, 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.”
Trump has argued that his proposals on immigration can help minorities by reducing the competition for jobs.
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. The overall margin of error is plus or minus 3.3 percentage points; for registered voters, the figure is plus or minus 4.6 percentage points.
(Editing by Cynthia Osterman)
IMAGE: Democratic U.S. presidential candidate Hillary Clinton speaks during a “Latinos for Hillary” rally in San Antonio, Texas October 15, 2015. REUTERS/Darren Abate