Trump wins Latino vote in Nevada, though critics caution poll may be inaccurate

Donald Trump arrives for a caucus night rally Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2016, in Las Vegas.

Donald Trump arrives for a caucus night rally Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2016, in Las Vegas.  (ap)

Donald Trump's hardline stance on immigration didn't seem to hurt him with Latinos in Nevada, as the Republican presidential front-runner claimed 45 percent of the Hispanic vote in Tuesday's caucus, according to an entrance poll conducted by Fox News.

"You know what I really am happy about, because I've been saying it for a long time… 46 percent with the Hispanics ... No. 1 with Hispanics!" Trump said during his victory speech early Wednesday.

Among Latinos, Marco Rubio finished in second with 28 percent and Ted Cruz in third with 18 percent. 

But of the 1,573 Republican voters polled in Nevada, only 125 – or 8 percent of the electorate– identified as Latino. So critics said the sample was too small to be accurate. The margin of error for such a small sample is 10 percent.

Speaking to Fox & Friends on Wednesday morning, Rubio played down Trump's victory with Hispanics.

"The margin of error is huge," he said. "It’s self-identified, by the way."

The Florida lawmaker, however, said that Latino voters are concerned with issues other than immigration and that they tend to be concerned with the same issues as other Americans.

"I’ve said this repeatedly – Americans of Hispanic descent are voters," Rubio said. "They care about the future of our country, they care about everything else people care about. They care about jobs. They care about terrorism. They are impacted by illegal immigration negatively in communities that are overrun by that. I’ve always said that about Americans of Hispanic descent."

There is no denying the impressiveness of Trump’s landslide victory in Nevada winning 45.9 percent of total caucus-goers on Tuesday – more than Rubio and Cruz combined (45.3 percent). And despite mathematical doubts over entrance poll data, Trump can now claim Hispanics prefer him over his two Cuban American rivals.

Of course, being No. 1 in a Republican caucus in Nevada is far from being the top choice with Hispanics nationally. According to Pew Research, 63 percent of Latinos nationwide identify or lean toward the Democratic Party while just 27 percent identify or lean toward the Republican Party. In 2012, President Barack Obama won 71 percent of the Hispanic vote while Mitt Romney got 27 percent.

The Hispanic voter is far from monolithic. Mexican-Americans are different than those from Central America or the Caribbean. There are white, brown and black Latinos. There are those that are foreign-born, and others who are multi-generational American. The complexities in the diversity highlight the point that Latinos are not a shoe-in bloc vote for any party.

Trump angered some Latinos when he said immigrants entering the country illegally from Mexico included rapists and drug dealers. And while some Mexican-Americans, who make up a majority of Latinos in the country, took offense – not all Hispanics were not personally offended. 

University of Nevada Las Vegas law student Sebastian Gajardo, 28, said he and his parents support Trump and have other Latino friends who do so as well but are afraid of being chastised if they vocalize support.

“Hispanics that have been and are established here tend to like him,” the Chilean-born Gajardo told Fox News Latino, “especially the ones that are more conservative-leaning and more involved in business, whereas those who are more recent immigrants dislike him.”

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