Nevada Latinos overwhelmingly went for Biden, but Trump made gains

Charetzayda Gonzalez, a member of the Culinary Union, canvassing in Las Vegas in September. (Nevada Current file photo)

President Donald Trump made gains with Latino voters in Nevada in the 2020 election, according to election eve polling and exit polls.

The majority of Trump’s support in Nevada seems to have come from white voters, not Latinos, who remained largely Democratic. However, there are indications Latinos supported Trump in larger numbers than when he ran in 2016.

A poll of 400 Latino voters in Nevada found support for Trump grew from 16 percent in 2016 to 25 percent in 2020. 

More data and analysis on the election will emerge in the coming weeks and beyond, but the American Election Eve Poll, a biannual poll measuring the attitudes of minority voters taken right before each national election conducted in part by Latino Decisions, provides some insight into what happened this year.

Latino Decisions estimates that about 250,000 Latinos voted in Nevada’s election, breaking previous records, and about 47,000 of those were first-time voters.

Gary Segura, co-founder of Latino Decisions, said the lack of Democratic investment and contact with the Latino community is a growing issue, especially this election cycle, where the Democratic candidate was less familiar to Latino voters.

“Biden was not a household name for most Latino households, unlike Secretary Clinton, and he wasn’t really in the position to campaign because of the COVID epidemic,” Segura said during a presentation on the poll with media, adding that was one explanation for the drop in Democratic support among Latinos.

Segura said while the Biden campaign did invest in Latino outreach, poor fundraising numbers earlier in his campaign during the crowded Democratic primary meant it did not invest substantially until early July.

Other groups in the state were not surprised by the increase in support for Trump. Part of Trump’s apparent improvement among Latino voters in 2020 may have been related to his emphasis on jobs and economic growth rather than on immigration, which turned off many Latino voters in 2016 and during the midterms.

That economic message got the attention of at least some Latinos who have been disproportionately hit by the economic consequences of the pandemic.

As Latinos voted in Nevada, they had three clear priorities: the coronavirus pandemic (58 percent), jobs and the economy (51 percent), and health care costs (35 percent), according to the 2020 American election eve poll.

Cecia Alvarado, Nevada State Director for Mi Familia Vota, said the Trump campaign focused resources on outreach to older Latino men, adding that research found the group was more likely to be influenced by Trump’s economic message. 

“They hear if you vote for this person your taxes will go up, but they don’t understand how that affects them, and our job is to educate them on our economic message,” Alvarado said.

She said those voters can be convinced to vote for Democrats if year-round investment and targeted election outreach is made, adding that organizing creates a structure ready for Democrats to latch onto.

“We need to continue engaging the community all year long. We are not an organization that only works on electoral work. We build programs by researching and collecting data on what matters to our community,” Alvarado said.

Still, economic issues and the pandemic drove Latino turnout for Biden, according to the pool. In Nevada about 77 percent of people who had lost a job during the pandemic supported Biden.

In Nevada, Latinos face the highest rates of unemployment. The account for more cases of COVID-19 than any other racial or ethnic group, making up 43 percent of COVID-19 cases, while only representing about 30 percent of the state population, according to state data.

“The experience of COVID on Latino households has been searing,” Segura said. “Latinos have been disproportionately economically impacted by COVID. Latino households have lost jobs, lost work, lost pay.

“Education and immigration, which historically have been the top two issues among Latinos, have really been pushed down the agenda as a consequence of COVID and the healthcare crisis that flows from it,” Segura added.

Latinos largely disapprove of Trump and about 67 percent said Trump did not care or was hostile to Latino voters.

However, different rates of support among Latinos are a clear example of the diversity of Latino voters, and how different campaign messages and outreach resonated with distinct subsets of that demographic.

For example, Latinos followed a trend seen in all racial demographics showing men support Trump at higher rates than women. In Nevada, Latinos of Mexican origin opposed Trump at higher rates than those of non-Mexican origin, 33 to 23 percent. Spanish speakers supported Biden at much higher rates, 80 percent, than English speakers, who supported Trump at 34 percent.

Latinos with lower incomes were also more likely to vote Democratic; Latinos making less than $50,000 a year supported Biden by 80 percent, compared to Trump’s 15 percent.

“Every four years it’s almost like we are just discovering the Latinx electorate,” said Lorella Praeli, president of the Community Change Action. “You can’t over generalize our community. You have to understand that we are different in New Mexico, and we are different in Nevada, and different in the state of Florida.”

Latino voters became a focal point of the election after Cubans and other Latin Americans in Florida’s Miami-Dade County helped Trump win by 7 percentage points compared with Hillary Clinton’s 30-point victory margin in the county four years ago.

Segura warned about over reading the large swing and applying it to other states.

“For the love of god, yes, there was a decline of Latino support in Miami-Dade County, but Miami-Dade County is 1.7 percent of the national Latino population and I look forward to receiving a press call about the 98 percent,” Segura said. 

Another factor in Nevada was likely the lack of in-person campaigning. In a swing state where Democrats need to spend face-to-face conversations to gain new voters and boost turnout, the party’s shutdown of in-person canvassing was damaging with Latinos, Segura said.

Groups affiliated with Democrats like the majority Latino Culinary Union continued going door-to-door to reach Latino voters, but the Biden campaign, citing the pandemic, held back from door-to-door canvassing until late in the campaign.

“The effort we did in the field is an incredible effort,” Geoconda Arguello-Kline, secretary-treasurer for the Culinary Union, said in a press call. “We believe when you talk to people door-to-door, that’s the right way.” 

Jeniffer Solis
Reporter | Jeniffer was born and raised in Las Vegas, Nevada where she attended the University of Nevada, Las Vegas before graduating in 2017 with a B.A in Journalism and Media Studies. While at UNLV she was a senior staff writer for the student newspaper, the UNLV Scarlet and Gray Free Press, and a news reporter for KUNV 91.5 FM, covering everything from the Route 91 shooting to UNLV housing. She has also contributed to the UNLV News Center and worked as a production engineer for several KUNV broadcasts before joining the Nevada Current. She’s an Aries.