Arizona’s growing Latino population, which is overwhelmingly of Mexican descent, is a key reason the state could swing to Democrats in the presidential race for the first time since 1996. Shifting attitudes of white college-educated voters in the suburbs of Maricopa County, and Trump himself, have also contributed to the state’s changing political landscape.
“There’s room for Joe Biden to grow his support among Latinos in Arizona in this last 50 days,” said Stephanie Valencia, co-founder of Equis Research, which hired GBAO Strategies to conduct the poll. “There’s a lot of room for him to continue to make his case to these younger Hispanic men who may be intrigued by Trump but aren’t totally sold on voting for him yet.”
Trump’s support increased by 8 points among Latinos in Arizona compared with the president’s 2019 average in four waves of Equis polling. After weekend events in Nevada, Trump held a Latino roundtable in Phoenix on Monday.
Valencia attributed the shift to “Trump intrigue” around the president’s business personality. Latino men under the age of 50 represented the greatest statistical bump for Trump since an Equis’ poll from May. The boost for Trump among young Latino men could be a product of a smaller subsample, Valencia said. But even if the true change were half the size, she said, “we would come to the same conclusion: young men have been increasingly moving toward Trump.”
“While more than 40 percent say they are supporting Trump today,” Valencia added. “Only 26 percent rate themselves very likely to support him at the end of the day.”
As the election nears, Biden’s campaign has rushed to shore up more Latino support, particularly in the battleground of Florida where he appears to be underperforming Clinton among Latinos in the state. Biden is heading to Florida on Tuesday for a Hispanic heritage event and a veterans’ roundtable.
In Arizona, Biden’s team is aiming to win at least 70 percent of the Latino vote — the same share of Latinos Sen. Kyrsten Sinema won in her 2018 race when she became the first Democrat to win a Senate seat in Arizona since the 1980s. Latinos will be one of the crucial blocs to determine who wins the pivotal Maricopa County and can help in the Democratic-leaning Pima County.
“The path to victory here in Arizona, and in some other states, runs through the Latino community,” Jessica Mejía, Biden’s Arizona state director, told POLITICO earlier this month.
Arizona Latinos preferred Biden on every issue polled, leading Trump by 44 points on who voters thought would best handle health care issues. When asked who would do a better job of handling the coronavirus, 67 percent of voters preferred Biden, compared with 25 percent for Trump. On immigration, Biden led 67-27 percent. He also led on the economy, with 57 percent compared with Trump’s 35 percent.
Valencia said that when Latinos are given more details about Biden’s platform, his favorability rises because the former vice president is still undefined among the group. The poll also found that Democratic Senate candidate Mark Kelly, who has steadily led Republican Sen. Martha McSally in polls, is outperforming Biden with Latinos in the state.
Arizona Latinos favor Kelly over McSally 65 percent to 27 percent. The poll surveyed 600 registered Latino voters in English and Spanish across Arizona from Aug. 20-Sept. 2, and has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percent.
Seventy-one percent of Latinos in Arizona said they’re “very motivated” to vote.
Biden’s statewide lead in Arizona, where he is ahead of Trump by an average of 5 points, is also boosted by his numbers with white voters. Biden is ahead of Trump by 22 points with white college-educated voters in the state, according to a monthly tracking poll by Phoenix-based OH Predictive Insights. Trump won that same group by 6 points in 2016. The shift among college-educated white voters has materialized in the suburbs of other battlegrounds as well. But Valencia cautioned Democrats against overconfidence in the Grand Canyon State.
“If the election were held today, Biden would probably win in a place like Arizona based on where he’s sitting with white support,” she said. Still, Valencia said, Biden faces a challenge if there’s any fluctuation in white voter support — even if it’s just a couple of points.
“If Democrats have not done the work to increase support among Latinos to close that gap then that is when there will be trouble,” Valencia said.