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North Carolina Latino Voters Will Be Decisive in 2016

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Clinton/Obama visit key indicator that the map is shifting; Trump’s anti-immigrant agenda may cost him the state

The sight of Hillary Clinton and President Obama on the stage in Charlotte this week has the nation clamoring to unpack the significance of the duo’s first campaign stop together and considering the impact of Trump’s disastrous campaign on the North Carolina electorate.

In an election year defined by Trump’s anti-immigrant and xenophobic agenda, Latinos are emerging as a key voting block in this swing state, and one that may prove decisive this November and beyond.  Aside from the 2016 cycle, Latinos and immigration activists have been organizing to fight back against anti-immigrant legislation introduced by Republicans in the State Legislature, which has only strengthened the sense among Latinos that Republicans are attacking their families.

In North Carolina, Latino voters make up 2% of the electorate, or approximately 150,000 voters. However,  in the last two presidential elections, Obama won by a mere 14,177 votes in 2008 and in 2012, Romney won by a margin of only 2%. 

As we ponder the size of the handicap Trump will have in North Carolina in 2016, it is telling to look at the recent history of candidates’ policies on immigration and how it impacted the Latino vote. In 2004, President George W Bush, who supported immigration reform and spoke Spanish, won 40% of the national Latino vote. In 2012, Mitt Romney’s self-deportation rhetoric earned him a scant 27% of the national Latino vote.

In 2016, with Donald Trump claiming that a federal judge is not qualified to hear a case because of his Mexican heritage and promising to create a deportation force, deport all 11 million undocumented people within 18 months, and build a wall and make Mexico pay for it, many are suggesting that Trump is on track to get crushed by the Latino vote this November by margins that far exceed Mitt Romney’s 27%.

According to a Latino Decisions / America’s Voice poll from April 2016, Trump’s net unfavorables with Latino likely voters are a staggering 87%, with the majority, 79%, having a very unfavorable view of him. Given these numbers, it is likely that in a state that is projected to be one of the closest in the nation, the backlash by North Carolina Latinos will decide the outcome of this pivotal, bellwether state.

But, there is a twist. Although Trump is digging his own grave with Latinos, experts still point out that Democrats have to put in the necessary work to make sure that Latino voters turn out. At this point, voters have mostly made up their minds about the 2016 election, and the coming months will be about the campaigns’ effectiveness at turning out their voters.

“After more than a year of attacks by Donald Trump and the Republican Party on their families and their dignity, Latinos are poised to deliver a punishing backlash in November,” said Tim Eakins, Director of North Carolina’s Voice. “If Democrats fully embrace the concerns of the Latino and immigrant community and give them a clear choice and reason to vote this election, North Carolina could easily swing their way.”