It has been a political season like no other, where contenders that break the political mold are beating the odds, shaking up the establishment and leaving head-scratching campaign strategists out of tricks to pull. Welcome to the era of Bernie and Trump!
Yesterday we woke up to another Trump victory, but this time in a battleground where Hispanic voters were to play an important role for the first time in the primaries.
Hispanics in Nevada are 75.2 percent citizens by birth, and while most Hispanics know an undocumented immigrant and support a path to citizenship, they may be equally or more concerned about providing a prosperous future for their families and a stable economy.
- Lili Gil Valletta
Only half of the population is white in Nevada, with Hispanics representing nearly 30 percent of the population. According to Pew Research Center, there are 328,000 Hispanic eligible voters in Nevada, representing 17 percent of the state’s eligible voters. 73.4 percent of those eligible voters are of Mexican descent.
On Tuesday night, Trump won 45 percent of the Latino vote while his Latino contenders, Rubio and Cruz, got 28 and 18 percent respectively. A candidate sentiment big data report by CulturIntel™ prior to the Nevada caucuses surprisingly reported Trump with 44 percent positive sentiment among Hispanics in Nevada.
The Democratic primary results also surprised the analysts; so much they have been questioning the accuracy of poll numbers that reported Sanders winning the Latino vote over Clinton. According to entrance polls, Sanders won among Latino voters by 8 points getting more than 50 percent of their vote.
Looking beyond the emotional charge that comes with Trump’s harsh stands on immigration and what has been labeled as racist remarks toward Mexicans, Latinos, Dreamers and Muslims, are there any lessons to be learned from the results in Nevada? What is Bernie doing to gain relevance among minorities and the youth? Here are four simple lessons candidate and entities alike must take into consideration when reaching Hispanics.
1. Do not take the Hispanic vote for granted
Sanders winning the Hispanic vote in Nevada sent Clinton’s people to reshuffle and question numbers and poll data. How could that be possible? Arturo Carmona, deputy political director for Bernie 2016 said during the Nevada caucuses, “What we learned today is Hillary Clinton’s firewall with Latino voters is a myth.” What has Bernie done differently? He knew he had to introduce himself to a new audience and he has been going the extra mile to connect, starting with the advantage of a Latino political director.
He has successfully engaged Millennials, more so than Clinton – who represent 44.5 percent of eligible Hispanic voters in Nevada – and has done his homework building relationships and connecting with the community from the ground up.
Last year’s midterm elections served up as a lesson too of the importance of outreach and proper investment. During the midterms, Republican investment in Spanish-language media exceeded the Democrat’s for the first time ever, which on the contrary had declined in spend by 50 percent since 2012 (Cmag). That was critical to the wins of Republicans in key and highly diverse states like Texas and Colorado. While over 60 percent of Latinos are U.S. born, therefore perfect English speakers, advertising messaging in Spanish – even of the same message in English – consistently reports higher message recall and loyalty among Hispanics, per Nielsen.
Doing the investment and in-language messaging validates to a Hispanic household that this candidate is going the extra mile to acknowledge “me” as an individual. Hispanics may speak English but still love in Spanish.
2. Being Latino doesn’t guarantee Latino Relevance
A common misconception is that having a Latino surname or speaking the language guarantees winning with Hispanics. However, just as any other voter segment, Hispanics care about the issues that affect them as Americans first and foremost. While immigration has been a harsh and loud point of contention amplifying Trump’s rhetoric, for Hispanics it represents about 27 percent of their national political topic discussion. That means, 73 percent of their concerns and discussion is around the issues that matter to all Americans like social issues, the economy, homeland security and foreign affairs. This, according to a recent February 2016 CulturIntel™ big data analysis evaluating 38,374 Hispanic discussions nationally over seven days leading to the Nevada caucuses.
So immigration aside, could it just be that the 45 percent of Hispanics that voted for Trump are drawn to his business track record and potential ability to get things done to make America great again? After all, Hispanics in Nevada are 75.2 percent citizens by birth, and while most Hispanics know an undocumented immigrant and support a path to citizenship, they may be equally or more concerned about providing a prosperous future for their families and a stable economy.
A plurality of Latino voters nationwide, 37 percent, said they were voting to “support the Latino community,” while 34 percent said they were voting to support the Democratic candidate and 16 percent said they were voting to support the Republican candidate. This may indicate that messaging around economic growth, jobs, prosperity, education and the likes may transcend political affiliation with this voter block.
3. Eligibility and turnout hold the key to drive Hispanic impact
There is a powerful force of shifting demographics nationally, which is accentuated in highly diverse states like Nevada. From 2012 to 2016, non-White voters jumped from 36 percent of the state’s electorate to 39.4 percent. If the Latino vote share sees the same growth as is projected for the share of Latino eligible voters, more than one in five voters in the state, or 21.2 percent, will be Latino for the first time ever in November, according to the Center for American Progress Fund.
However, Hispanic voter turnout, voter registration and participation will hold the key to realizing the true power of the Hispanic vote.
In 2012, there were 13.7 million Latinos registered to vote; however there were still 9.6 million – 41 percent – eligible that did not register. This could ultimately make a winning difference for the candidate that is relevant and engages with the community that could give them an edge where it matters most.
While Trump’s results were impressive, Hispanic voters only made up 8 percent of Republican caucus-goers in Nevada. By contrast, 19 percent of caucus-goers in Saturday's Democratic contest were Hispanic. While 45 percent is impressive, it is important to note that it is reported out of a sample size of 1,543 according to the Fox News Republican caucuses entrance poll, which would translate into 695 Hispanics.
Regardless of the small sample size, this same entrance poll methodology – that some are questioning in its validity – is what keeps being used and does proportionately show Trump winning over his contenders who many thought would secure higher support from Latinos. There is certainly opportunity to rethink the way data is run and reported, which leads us to learning #4.
4. Social big data reports can provide leading indicators to election outcomes
In the era of digital democracy and big data analytics, why is political intelligence still limited to old school polls that dial people’s landlines and hope to catch voters the day of elections? That method becomes increasingly challenging when polls are not representative of ethnic segments or generational cohorts, like Millennials.
While conventional polling may still have a role to play, new methodologies can serve as a leading indication of election outcome with larger sample sizes. Overall sentiment among adults 18+ in Nevada reported Trump leading in positive sentiment at 47 percent. In addition, sentiment analysis by ethnicity predicted high positive sentiment among Hispanics in Nevada, with a sample size of 33,373 discussions among Hispanic adults. This was reported 24 hours ahead of the 45 percent that many are questioning because of its small sample size.
Nevada reports the 11th highest Latino voter population in the U.S., and is setting the tone for the importance of outreach, investment and proper messaging to reach this highly diverse voter block. Other states following with significant Latino voter population are Michigan (12), Illinois (7), Massachusetts (14), Colorado (8), Texas (2), Florida (3), Arizona (5), Virginia (17), North Carolina (18), and Georgia (20), all of which have primaries Democratic between now and March 22.
Lili Gil Valletta is an award-winning entrepreneur, multicultural marketing strategist, Fox News independent contributor and co-founder of XL Alliance. She is a World Economic Forum Young Global Leader and member of the Harvard Kennedy School Women's Leadership Board.