ORLANDO, Fla. — Joe Biden has a narrow lead among Florida Hispanic voters but is running well behind Hillary Clinton’s 2016 performance, according to a new poll released Thursday by Telemundo.
Biden leads Trump among Hispanics by just 48-43 percent, numbers that could mean trouble for the former vice president in the nation’s biggest swing state.
While Florida isn’t a must-win state for Biden as it is for Trump, a failure to generate stronger numbers among Hispanics could ensure he loses the state’s 29 electoral votes. Clinton received 62 percent of the Florida Hispanic vote in 2016, according to exit polls, and still lost here.
“If Biden is going to flip Florida, he has to at least match Clinton’s numbers among Hispanics and that looks like it’s not going to happen,” said Brad Coker, pollster for Mason-Dixon Polling & Strategy, who conducted the poll.
“Even if he were to pull most of the undecided vote still out there, Trump is going to do better this time than he did last time,” Coker added. Trump received 35 percent of the Florida Hispanic vote in 2016 exit polls.
The Florida poll results follow months of criticism from Hispanic Democrats. Biden’s campaign was late in ramping up its efforts to build Hispanic support and fight GOP messaging that Biden, Sen. Kamala Harris and Democrats are socialists — a message that has resonated in South Florida’s Cuban, Venezuelan, Colombian and Nicaraguan communities.
Part of Trump’s improved numbers are due to strong support from Cuban-American voters in the state. Trump has long touted his support within that community after winning 54 percent of the Cuban-American vote, according to 2016 exit polls. Now, he is leading among them by 71 percent to 23 percent, according to the new poll.
“That might be the thing that saves Donald Trump in Florida,” Coker said.
Coker said Venezuelans and Colombians polled similarly to Cubans in offering strong support for Trump. However, Biden leads with Florida Puerto Ricans, 66 percent to 23 percent. Puerto Ricans traditionally have had lower turnout rates but are growing in numbers in the state.
A Univision poll released Wednesday painted a different picture. It showed Biden doing markedly better among Florida Hispanics, leading Trump by 20 points, 57 to 37 percent. A CBS News Battleground poll released last week had Biden leading among Hispanics in Florida by 27 points.
Coker cautioned that the new poll numbers in Florida, which has a highly diverse Hispanic community, don’t offer much insight into Biden’s performance among Hispanics elsewhere. Biden leads Trump among Latino voters by 36 points in Arizona, 33 points in Nevada and 24 points in Texas, according to the Telemundo poll.
A total of 500 registered Hispanic voters were interviewed in each state for the polls, which have a margin of error of 4.5 percentage points. The Florida, Nevada and Texas polls were conducted from Oct. 23 through Oct.26, and the Arizona poll was conducted Oct. 23 through Oct. 27.