Poll: Democrats start 2016 with advantage among Latinos

A bilingual sign stands outside a polling center at public library ahead of local elections on April 28, 2013 in Austin, Texas. (John Moore/Getty)
A bilingual sign stands outside a polling center at public library ahead of local elections on April 28, 2013 in Austin, Texas.

Republican leaders have spent two years since the 2012 election warning that the party needs to improve its standing with Latino voters. But things aren’t looking any better heading into 2016 presidential election, according to the latest NBC/WSJ/Telemundo poll.

Some 61% of Latino voters reported that they could see themselves pulling the lever for Hillary Clinton in the next presidential election versus 33% who said they could not. In a match-up between a generic Republican and generic Democrat, Latinos favored the Democrat 49% to 27%.

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Clinton’s numbers are significantly stronger than three of her potential GOP opponents, including Cuban-American Senators Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz and former Florida governor Jeb Bush. 28% of respondents said they could vote for Bush versus 48% who said they couldn’t, while Rubio (21-37) and Cruz (17-40) fared poorly as well. Mitt Romney won 27% of the Latino vote in 2012, according to exit polls. 

Rubio and Bush have each championed immigration reform while Cruz has taken a hardline position emphasizing border security and deportations. The National Review reported this week that Cruz’s advisers were hopeful the senator could make significant gains with Latino voters in a presidential run. For now, however, the party’s overall low standing with Latinos seems to be dragging them all down. Only 30% of respondents said they believed Republican elected officials cared about Latino community’s concerns versus 62% who credited Democrats with caring and 66% who credited President Obama.

The poll comes just weeks after Obama announced new executive action to protect up to five million undocumented immigrants from deportation, and his approval rating has shot up to 57% among Latinos, a 10-point climb from September. His approval rating on immigration specifically stands at 56% among Latino respondents versus 40% among Americans overall.

It’s not a perfect apples to apples comparison – the September poll sampled registered voters, the latest one all adult respondents – but fits with recent polling from Gallup, Pew Research, and Latino Decisions showing strong Latino support for the move and Obama’s personal popularity on the rise

The NBC/WSJ/Telemundo survey, conducted between December 10 and December 14, oversampled 250 Latino respondents and has a margin of error of 6.2 points.