Texas’ growing Latino vote remains relatively untapped ahead of the state's Democratic presidential primary.
Brandon Rottinghaus, a political science professor at the University of Houston, said many Latinos have yet to hear from campaigns. According to polling, Democrats are doing a slightly better job than Republicans at reaching out, but no one is doing very well.
“The Latino vote is still the most untapped and underappreciated vote in the state,” he said.
Latinos are predicted to become the largest population group in Texas by 2022. In just a few years, they are expected to make up a quarter of all eligible voters.
In recent years, Latinos here have been more interested in voting, too.
Albert Morales, senior political director with the polling firm Latino Decisions, said in the past, only about half of Latinos polled said they would be interested in voting during a presidential election year.
In one of the latest polls, 65% said they were “almost certain” they would vote and 15% said they “probably” would vote.
“So it is a spike,” Morales said. “It is a continuous spike, and we don’t see any reason to believe that it will diminish in any way.”
Regardless of the voting bloc’s growing power and interest in voting, Rottinghaus said, no campaign has really banked on winning Texas Latino voters.
“The vote remains sort of up for grabs,” he said. “Any candidate who can harness that vote, in a significant way, is going to make a major difference in [Texas] elections.”
According to polling in the Democratic presidential primary, Latino voters in Texas have favorable opinions of most of the candidates. Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders has the highest favorability rating, despite the fact that Latino voters largely disapprove of “socialism” and “democratic socialism.”
Morales said Sanders' strength among Texas Latinos, so far, has everything to do with his focus on health care.
“'Medicare for All' plays very well with Latino communities,” he said. “[Health care] is the issue that ranks the highest in importance within the Latino community.”
Morales said "the jury is still out,” though, on who Texas Democrats – and Texas Latinos – will chose in the primary.
All the “volatility” in the race in the past several days makes it somewhat impossible to predict, he said.
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