Will new Latino voters in Florida impact the presidential election?

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Sign outside early vote location in West Tampa. By Seán Kinane / WMNF News (October 2012).

The presidential race in Florida is expected to be close again this year, but one growing demographic could tilt the scales: Latino voters. Victor DiMaio is treasurer of the Hillsborough County Democratic Hispanic Caucus of Florida and used to do Hispanic outreach work for the U.S. Census. He says Latino populations are growing in the Tampa Bay region and make up one-fifth of Floridians.


“There’s a large Hispanic population, that’s growing exponentially, in the Clearwater area. They tend to be more Puerto Rican and from some other South American countries as opposed to Cuban. Down in Bradenton, Manatee through Sarasota, because of the agriculture industry, there’s a lot of Mexican immigrants that have moved into that area. Just like there have been in Hillsborough county, in the South Shore area in Hillsborough.”

DiMaio says the largest Latino groups are Puerto Ricans, Mexicans and Cubans. And with the exception of the older Cubans in the Miami area they vote predominantly for Democrats. A New Latino Voice poll last week found that only 13% of Florida Hispanics planned to vote for Donald Trump in November.

“Donald Trump, by his opening comments when he came out to announce for President, by attacking Mexicans the way he did, has really galvanized the entire Hispanic community up and down the ladder, irregardless of whether he was attacking Mexicans. The Puerto Ricans and Cubans say: ‘Hey, I could be next. That could be me and I could be trying to climb over a wall.’”

But the founder and CEO of the Puerto Rican Chamber of Commerce based in Sarasota and Tampa says that professionals who recently moved to Florida from Puerto Rico will support Trump. Elizabeth Cuevas Neunder says unlike the service-industry workers who moved to the Kissimmee-Walt Disney World area, the doctors, lawyers, police and teachers who left Puerto Rico because of economic hardships appreciate the policy solutions put forward by Trump.

“Maybe between 60%-70% of the population in Puerto Rico are receiving government subsidies because we have a very large number of illegals who have penetrated the island, especially in the area of Santurse, which is a large Dominican Republic population. They stay there, they use the system and then they fly as if they were Puerto Ricans or part of the island, to the mainland.”

Neunder says she plans to travel to Kissimmee this week to attend a Trump rally. But the Democrat we heard from earlier, Victor DiMaio, says that Trump supporters are a small section of recent Latino immigrants to Florida.


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