A record 27.3 million Hispanics are eligible to vote in the U.S. elections this November.
Hispanics now make up about 12 percent of all U.S. voters. That is the same percentage as African-American voters, according to Pew Research Center.
Albert Camarillo, founding director of Stanford University’s Center for Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity, said 3,000 more Hispanics become eligible to vote in U.S. elections every day.
In a Stanford University report, he said Hispanic voters could make a “huge difference” in states where Hispanics make up a large percentage of the population.
The growth of Hispanic voters, he said, changed Arizona, a state that historically had strong ties to the Republican Party. The state has only supported one Democrat in the past 10 presidential elections. But now, Arizonans could vote for either a Republican or Democratic candidate, he said.
Clinton Hispanic support compared to Obama’s
Political observers thought that Hispanics would vote in larger numbers for Democrat Hillary Clinton than they did for Barack Obama in 2012. Four years ago, Obama defeated Republican Mitt Romney 71 percent to 27 percent among Hispanics, according to exit polls.
But a new study suggests Clinton, while leading Trump among Hispanic voters, will have a hard time topping Obama’s 71 percent support.
The opinion that Clinton would do better with Hispanic voters was based on statements made by Republican Donald Trump, who called on the government to expel all 11 million illegal immigrants, suggested many Mexican immigrants were drug dealers or rapists, and promised to build a huge wall along the Mexican border.
‘There’s nothing more personal’
Yvanna Cancela is political director of the Las Vegas, Nevada Culinary Union. Many members of the group are Hispanic.
“A lot of times you hear this rap about how politics doesn’t affect their life,” she told the Associated Press last month. “But that changes when it’s personal, and there’s nothing more personal than Donald Trump talking about deporting 11 million immigrants.”
In recent days, efforts to measure the Hispanic vote produced mixed results.
Polling organizations questioned likely voters after Trump gave an immigration speech on August 31.
In the speech, Trump said he would focus on removing illegal immigrants who were guilty of crimes. He did not say what would happen to the large majority of illegal immigrants who were not guilty of crimes. But he said illegal immigrants who want legal guarantees in the United States would first have to return to their home countries.
In his speech, Trump blamed illegal immigrants for violent crimes. And he said the United States would be more selective in deciding who to admit — choosing people who shared American values and would not take away jobs from U.S. citizens.
“We take anybody,” he said of current immigration policy. “Come on in, anybody. Just come on in. Not anymore.”
Some members of Trump’s Hispanic advisory group said they were disappointed he did not soften his earlier statements on immigration.
A recent poll found that Clinton is getting a lower percentage of Hispanic votes than Obama did in four states where the Hispanic vote is important. The polling results were reported by Univision, a Spanish language television station.
Univision said “Hillary Clinton holds a wide lead over Donald Trump among Hispanics in Florida, Arizona, Nevada, and Colorado. However, her support among Hispanics does not match Obama’s in 2012.”
The station added that Clinton led Trump among Hispanic voters 53 percent to 29 percent in Florida, 68 percent to 18 percent in Arizona, 62 percent to 17 percent in Colorado and 65 percent to 19 percent in Nevada.
These are large leads, but Obama won between six percent and 13 percent more in the four states, according to polls taken after the 2012 election.
The good news for Clinton is that the same Univision poll showed Trump getting a lower percentage of Hispanic votes than Republican Mitt Romney did in 2012. Romney won between six percent and 10 percent more Hispanic votes than Trump is receiving in the states covered by the Univision poll.
Kevin Wagner, who teaches political science at Florida Atlantic University, said recent poll results may not relate to how people vote in November because it came after a “bad week” for Clinton.
She had to leave a New York City ceremony marking the anniversary of the September 2001 terrorist attacks because she was ill. She also had to back away from a statement in which she called half of Trump’s supporters deplorable. She described them as holding racist or far-right opinions.
Wagner said even more important than what percentage of Hispanics support Clinton or Trump is how many actually vote. In past elections, Hispanics voted at lower percentages than both whites and African-Americans, according to the Pew Research Center.
“I expect Secretary Clinton to carry the Latino vote by a sizable margin, but the key will be whether the Latino voters turnout in enough numbers to tip some of the closer states,” Wagner said. “That is still very much in question.”
Camarillo of Stanford University said Hispanic voter turnout will depend on motivation. By that, he means how much worse voters think a candidate can make their lives.
Wagner said it is important that people understand that Hispanic/Latinos include many nationalities.
Many Cuban-Americans live in the southeastern state of Florida. They are considered more conservative than other Hispanics and often vote Republican.
Wagner noted that Cuban-Americans vote differently than Mexican-Americans, who are more likely to support Democratic candidates.
This story was originally reported by VOA's Learning English service.