Nov 7, 2022 - Politics & Policy

DeSantis' Latino support grows as election nears

Photo illustration of Ron DeSantis over a red and burgundy background with elements of ballots.

Photo illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios. Photo: James Gilbert/Getty Images

Latinos could help Gov. Ron DeSantis secure his second term as governor tomorrow — and propel him if he runs for president in 2024.

Driving the news: A majority of Hispanic voters back DeSantis over Democrat Charlie Crist, and some support the Republican’s decision to fly migrants from Texas to Martha's Vineyard, according to a new Telemundo/LX News poll.

State of play: Polls show he's appeared to have made big strides with Latinos since he lost the Hispanic vote by 10 percentage points in 2018, according to NBC News exit polling.

  • A recent bilingual survey of 625 likely Hispanic voters by Telemundo/LX News showed DeSantis leads Crist 51% to 44% and that 56% of respondents approve of the job the governor is doing.
  • His hurricane response, defiant style of governing and immigration stance have buoyed his popularity.

Between the lines: Many Florida Latinos, particularly Cuban American and Venezuelan Americans, have long skewed Republican. But political misinformation, the linking of Democrats to socialist policies and heavy investments in Latino voters by the GOP helped Trump make inroads in 2020 with Latinos in other parts of the U.S., political analysts say.

  • Republicans are hoping to capitalize on those gains.
  • But the Telemundo survey found voters with Puerto Rican roots back Crist over DeSantis 59% to 37%. Other Hispanic voters back Crist by a more narrow margin.
  • DeSantis is leading among independent Hispanic voters by a 22-point margin.

Quick take: Hispanic voters are generally “less concerned with social issues and more concerned about following the American dream and the economy," Sean Foreman, political science professor at Barry University in Miami, told Axios.

  • "Abortion being Charlie Crist's main talking point doesn't really resonate with Hispanic voters."

Zoom in: Republicans have been especially focused on the once Democratic stronghold of Miami-Dade county — the most Hispanic county in the state.

  • Exit polls showed DeSantis lost in Miami-Dade County by 20 percentage points in 2018.
  • If DeSantis can capture Miami-Dade, he will be the first gubernatorial candidate to do so in 20 years. If he does, "Florida is going to go ultra-red and Democrats are going to have to figure out a new strategy going forward," Foreman said.

The big picture: DeSantis is also popular among the general Florida population. A recent poll conducted by Florida Atlantic University shows his overall approval rating was 53% among registered voters and 57% of respondents.

  • An October survey by the University of South Florida said they either "strongly approve" or "somewhat approve" of the job DeSantis has done in regard to jobs and the economy.

The intrigue: DeSantis' treatment of migrants and asylum seekers as well as his anti-illegal immigration rhetoric may not be hurting him among all Latinos — and it could even be helping him, experts say.

  • Some voters who more recently moved to the U.S. or who sympathize with migrants may have been turned off by DeSantis' controversial migrant flights to Martha's Vineyard, Elizabeth Aranda, a sociology professor at the University of South Florida, told Axios.
  • But others who have been here longer and who feel they migrated "the right way" may support him and want to separate themselves from the stigma undocumented migrants carry, Aranda explained.

What they're saying: Democratic criticism of the flights carrying migrants has backfired, claimed Armando Ibarra, president of Miami Young Republicans.

  • "Many Hispanic and Latino immigrants understand the abuses and the human rights challenges presented by the uncontrolled migration," Ibarra told Axios.

The other side: Hillsborough County Democratic Hispanic Caucus president Victor DiMaio told Axios that all isn't lost for Hispanic voters going blue.

  • "I know everyone is rushing to write the epitaph of the Democratic party for Hispanic voters but I'm not ready to do that," DiMaio said.
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