Democrats need to give Hispanic voters something worth voting for
CHICAGO -- Wasn't the 2016 presidential election the event that taught us to distrust polls? Didn't almost everyone get it wrong, eroding the public's trust in both journalism and their fellow citizens, who made electoral choices that seemed to go against their own self-interest?
Welcome to the 2020 campaign season, which is already making me -- and probably many others -- want to tear my hair out.
It's because I'm looking at new poll numbers from Latino Decisions, the nation's (perhaps not incorrectly) self-proclaimed "leading polling and research firm on Latino Americans." But instead of fearing that the numbers are wrong, they seem frighteningly on-target.
Twenty-five percent of all the Latino registered voters who were polled have not only heard of President Trump but also have a very or somewhat favorable impression of him, according to the Spring 2019 national poll.
Twenty percent say that the president and Republicans are doing a good job of reaching out to Hispanics.
Seventeen percent say they will be voting for Donald Trump in 2020, and another 3% are undecided but leaning toward Trump.
Twenty-seven percent either strongly or somewhat agree with Trump's February decision to declare a national emergency on the U.S.-Mexico border and redirect money meant for military and disaster relief to build a border wall.
I was also mildly surprised to see how the registered Hispanic voters who were polled reacted to potential democratic presidential contenders. They did not jump at the Latino candidate, former housing secretary Julián Castro, as a top choice.
They weren't set on fire by Kamala Harris, a leader in the Latino-majority state of California and a woman of color who has come out strong against the Trump administration's treatment of migrants at the border.
Nope. It's Biden, with 59 percent favorability.
Or "Tío Joe," as in "Uncle Joe," a moniker that was supposedly used in a top-secret Spanish-language TV ad designed to be released when he officially declares the week after Easter, according to Politico.
He's followed very closely by Bernie at 58 percent favorability -- that would be the socialist Bernie Sanders who's been a millionaire since 2016.
And after Sanders, the list of the top three most favored candidates is rounded out by, drumroll please: former Texas congressman Beto O'Rourke, at 48 percent, the non-Latino guy with the Hispanic nickname.
If these are startling revelations, then you just haven't been paying attention.
Latinos were never the monolith that the mainstream media portrayed them to be. There's no denying they are an increasingly diverse population in the United States, one that no longer counts language, country of origin, geographic concentration or immigration status as a unifying common denominator.
This is also shown clearly in what Hispanics ranked as the most important issues to them in the Latino Decisions poll, which echoed decades of prior research. Even in this time of Trump-induced humanitarian crises at the border, the issue of protecting immigrants' rights rates only a third-place spot, overshadowed by the high cost of health care and the desire to see wages and income improve.
But we shouldn't underestimate the fact that these are the thoughts of Latinos who are already registered to vote and thinking ahead about the presidential race, which is still more than a year away. They may skew more conservative or be outliers because of their political interest at this early stage. Or the sample size of the poll could simply be too small.
We don't know what a Latino voter who registers close to Election Day cares about because we're still pretty far out from November 2020 for the average person's interest in politics to kick in.
And when it comes right down to it, history tells us that not enough of the 32 million Hispanics who will be eligible to vote in 2020 will be registered and then show up at the polls. (In the 2016 presidential election, Latino turnout was 47.6 percent, about the same as in 2012.)
If Democrats want to be competitive with Latino voters, they need to provide what Hispanic grassroots organizations across the country have consistently said they need -- money and resources to invest in voter registration and get-out-the-vote organizing.
Without the proper investments, Latinos might have lackluster turnout, furthering a track record of not seeming too invested in their government.
And what a shame it would be for eligible Latino voters to again be kept on the sidelines of a presidential election because slick ads with pandering and sometimes unintelligible Spanish translations are more palatable to fund than the education of a whole new generation of voters.
Esther Cepeda's email address is firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow her on Twitter: @estherjcepeda.
(c) 2019, Washington Post Writers Group