ITHACA, N.Y. - Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden lead Democratic presidential nominees among registered Latino voters heading into the Feb. 22 Nevada caucuses, the first contest in a diverse state. Nationally, registered Latino voters favor any of the Democratic contenders over President Donald Trump by large margins, and rate health care and racism as significant concerns.
Those are some of the key findings from the latest Univision News poll led by Sergio Garcia-Rios, assistant professor of government at Cornell University.
The results showed Sanders leading other Democratic candidates with 33% support in Nevada and 30% nationally, followed by Biden at 22% and 21%, respectively. In head-to-head matchups with Trump, Michael Bloomberg also fared well in Nevada, with 78% planning on or leaning toward voting for him, second to Sanders' 80% total.
Four out of five Nevada respondents disapproved of Trump, with 60% "strongly" disapproving. Nationally, 73% disapproved of the president, 49% strongly. At the same time, Trump's approval rating among Latinos rose from 22% to 27% since September.
Latinos this year are projected to be the largest racial or ethnic minority voting group for the first time with a record 32 million voters, according to the Pew Research Center. They make up nearly 20% of Nevada's eligible voters, up from about 3% in Iowa and New Hampshire.
Latino voter turnout surged in the 2018 midterm elections, compared to four years earlier. If that trend continues, Garcia-Rios said, Latinos could potentially play a decisive role in battleground states such as Florida, Nevada, Ohio, Texas and Wisconsin.
"A big Latino turnout," he said, "could have a big impact in the general election."
Garcia-Rios, a self-described "fronterizo" who grew up in both Mexico and Texas, said he and Univision shared a desire to accurately capture Latino public opinion with a scientific and bipartisan approach.
Broader polls and exit polls, he said, often fail to reach representative samples of a diverse Latino population. Latinos' varying geographic, generational and political backgrounds, he said, shape different attitudes across the country - more conservative in Florida, for example, than California.
"Being aware that it's not monolithic, and being able to capture that full picture, is important to us," said Garcia-Rios.
Garcia-Rios employs a hybrid approach that reaches out bilingually to potential voters by cellphone, landline telephone and online, confirming if they are registered voters. He writes the poll questions - seeking opinions on key issues as well as candidate preferences - and oversees the data analysis.
The new poll, produced in partnership the Latino Community Project, surveyed 1,000 registered Latino voters nationally and 306 in Nevada from Feb. 9-14. The margins of error were plus or minus 3.1 percentage points nationally and 5.6 percentage points in Nevada. Democratic primary preferences were asked of 667 respondents nationally and 210 in Nevada, with margins of error of plus or minus 3.8 percentage points and 6.7 percentage points, respectively.