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How Latino Vote Has Affected Presidential Election


Latino voters have been decisive in several key states this year. President Trump had a strong showing among some of those voters in Florida, while young Latino voters helped boost Biden and Democrats to victory in Arizona. NPR's Juana Summers covers demographics and politics and has been following this.

Welcome back, Juana.


CORNISH: We know this is a diverse group, but what can you tell us about what you were seeing within the constituency in this election?

SUMMERS: Yes, so there are lots of Latino votes. This is a really big, diverse segment of the electorate. We're talking about first-generation citizens, Latino families who have been in the U.S. as long as their white counterparts and, of course, differences between voters of Mexican, Puerto Rican, Cuban or Venezuelan descent. I could go on, and that means there is a broad array of views to consider. One clear takeaway from experts who study Latino voters of all kinds is that this was a big night for turnout in a number of battleground states, as well as states where Latinos are a growing part of the electorate. The Latino population is younger compared with other ethnic groups, and experts say that there was particularly strong turnout among Latino voters under the age of 30.

CORNISH: Now, President Trump won Florida, as he did four years ago. Can you talk about how Latino voters there factored into that victory?

SUMMERS: Well, the president's campaign started early with these voters, and they were relentless. They aggressively focused on conservatives in the Cuban, Venezuelan and Colombian communities, particularly in the Miami area. And the president's closing message to those voters was that Joe Biden and Democrats are veering towards socialism, and that's a message that we think particularly resonated among Cuban Americans. And I think that's why you saw the president win a significant majority of those voters in the state of Florida. Now, today there has also been some renewed criticism of the Biden campaign's approach to the Latino vote. Domingo Garcia is the president of LULAC, and he said earlier today that the campaign made a strategic error here.

DOMINGO GARCIA: The Democrats cannot take Latinos for granted. I think Biden missed a grand opportunity to have been able to carry Florida and Texas if he had just invested in the Latino community more, if he had delivered the correct message. The numbers that we've seen out of Miami-Dade is he got 2- or 250,000 less Latino votes than Hillary Clinton got.

SUMMERS: Now, to put that into some historical context, four years ago, Hillary Clinton won that county by roughly 30 percentage points, even though she did not win the state. And this year, the president pulled off a pretty dramatic turnaround. He did not win Miami-Dade, but he held Biden to just a seven-point lead. Now, we should note that the Biden campaign does not agree with critiques that the candidate underperformed among Latino voters. Biden's campaign manager, earlier today, said instead that in the state of Florida, Trump overperformed among Cuban American voters in that state. And then she pointed to the state of Arizona, where Biden flipped that state as one of the bright spots that they saw on the map among these voters.

CORNISH: Other states we can talk about - maybe Texas.

SUMMERS: Yeah. In Texas, you know, Democrats really thought this was the year the state would go blue. One of the reasons they thought it might be favorable to them was the explosive growth in the state's Latino population. But we did see President Trump picking up some support from Latinos in South Texas, who followed him on down the ballot - Republicans holding that state. Texas Democrats did not wind up flipping congressional districts they'd been eyeing either. And...

CORNISH: Oh, go ahead.

SUMMERS: And then we did see - very quickly - just a different story in Arizona, where they really thought that young voters under the age of 30 were a big part of the formula that flipped that state for Democrats. And that's the state that every Democrat I've talked to has been mentioning to me.

CORNISH: That's NPR's Juana Summers.

Thank you.

SUMMERS: Thanks. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Juana Summers is a political correspondent for NPR covering race, justice and politics. She has covered politics since 2010 for publications including Politico, CNN and The Associated Press. She got her start in public radio at KBIA in Columbia, Mo., and also previously covered Congress for NPR.
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