They are seen as a swing vote in a battleground state.
And if it were up to them, the next president would be Hillary Clinton.
A new Fox News Latino poll of 803 registered Latinos voters nationwide showed that of all Latino subgroups, Puerto Ricans gave Clinton the strongest favorability rate, 65 percent, over Trump, who got just 12 percent.
About 69 percent of Puerto Ricans said they would vote for Clinton if the vote was held today. About 17 percent of Puerto Ricans said they’d support Trump.
Puerto Ricans are expected to play a key role in Florida, long a battleground state in the president election and a growing force — they have settled in the state at a rate of about 1,000 a month since the economic crisis in Puerto Rico.
The poll, which was conducted over the phone from August 7-10, surveyed only Latino registered voters and has a sampling error margin of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points. The margin of error for Puerto Ricans, however, was plus or minus 8.5 percent. The poll was conducted under the direction of Anderson Robbins Research (D) and Shaw & Company Research (R).
Political strategists say that Trump must win Florida in order to win the White House. Some say that now, winning Florida means also winning the central part of the state, where Puerto Ricans increasingly are dominating in numbers and influence.
But others disagree, saying that if Trump can win enough support from white voters, he doesn’t need to win many votes from Latinos.
“I don’t think it’s a problem at all because he’s not focused on the Puerto Rican vote in Florida…His focus is on uneducated, white voters,” said Evelyn Perez-Verdia, a non-partisan political analyst based in Florida. “He’s working to reach out to them and trying to appeal to what they are angry about and what concerns them. He’s just not that interested in winning over Puerto Ricans.”
Puerto Ricans now comprise at least 30 percent of the state’s Latino registered voters. They are mostly Democrats but there are also some conservatives.
While they voted mainly for President Barack Obama in the last two elections, they also voted for Republican Charlie Crist in Florida’s 2006 gubernatorial race. Years later, Crist switched his political party to Democrat.
If Trump’s campaign is not aggressively going after Puerto Ricans, or other Latinos, the Republicans in general are, with an eye toward winning their support for other races.
So both parties are courting them, with Republicans casting themselves as the party that reflects their family values, as well the freedom to select a K-12 school and that pushes for lower taxes, and Democrats telling Puerto Rican and other Latino voters that they are the party that welcomes diversity, is more compassionate, and supports social programs that enable people to get back on their feet.
As U.S. citizens, Puerto Ricans, who number more than 1 million in Florida alone, are eligible to register to vote from the day they arrive. Florida’s registration deadline for the Nov. 8 general election is early October.
Clinton courted Puerto Ricans this week during a visit to Florida, reminding the newest ones to the area that in mainland U.S. they can vote for president.
She has sent campaign organizers to their neighborhoods and churches to encourage them to register to vote. Campaign workers have handed out brochures about Clinton’s health care and education proposals.
On the other side, conservative group Libre Initiative, for instance, has been diligently reaching out to Puerto Ricans in Florida and elsewhere, holding classes for the community such as driver’s education, starting a business, and other things in order to establish a rapport and drum up support for the Republican Party.