Most Latinos Voted for Clinton, but Why Did the Others Go for Trump?

By some estimates, 29% of Latino voters cast ballots for a man who called Mexican immigrants ‘criminals.’ For some, economics and anti-abortion positions trumped insults.

An employee of Donald Trump grabs his tie as they pose for photographs during an event at Trump National Doral, Oct. 25, 2016, in Miami.
Evan Vucci / AP

DALLAS, TX — On the morning that the United States woke up to the Trump era, Eduardo Lopez was at work at a Home Depot, a 20-minute drive from Dallas, Texas. A tall blond man in a leather jacket who passed him paused to call out: “Now you and your family all need to leave.”

“I don’t think so,” replied Lopez.

“Why? Are you an American citizen?” said the man, and cursed.

Lopez, 35, who was born in Mexico, told Haaretz: “I’ve been living in the United States for 25 years and I’ve never had anything like that happen to me before.”

Latino civil rights organizations have been warning for months that Donald Trump’s negative remarks about Americans of Hispanic origin could lead to violent attacks. In the weeks before the election, Latino activists worked around the clock to get out the vote in Hispanic communities and prevent Trump from being elected. They promised that the “sleeping giant” of the Latino electorate would awaken and tilt the polls in Hillary Clinton’s favor.

But not only did Clinton lose, according to exit polls a significant minority of Latino voters cast its ballot for Trump — even though he had called Mexican immigrants “criminals and rapists.”

According to a CNN exit poll, 29 percent of Latino voters cast their ballots for Trump, compared to 27 percent for the Republican candidate in the 2012 presidential election, Mitt Romney.

Some Trump voters in Oak Cliff, the city’s oldest Latino district, said the figures did not surprise them “I’m very happy today. I tried to maintain a positive attitude because in my heart I knew that he has potential. He is a very smart guy,” says Mayra Orozco. She owns three quinceanera boutiques in the area, supplying the frothy dresses for the traditional 15th-birthday celebration for Latina girls as well as wedding gowns.

“Trump will help small businesses, so that we’ll all be able to help our families,” says Orozco. She says Trump’s comments about immigrants don’t disturb her. “No, no,” she shakes her head decidedly. “He is the best for us. Now we can expect more.”

Other Oak Cliff residents who spoke to Haaretz also emphasized the importance of the economy and speak approvingly of Trump’s being a businessman. According to exit polls cited by the Pew Research Center, 46 percent of Hispanic voters said the economy was the most important issue facing the United States, followed by terrorism (20 percent), immigration (19 percent) and foreign policy (11 percent).

But Jaime, a 20-something Dallas man who did not want his last name published, says he voted for Trump for religious reasons. He says all his friends are evangelical Christians who also voted for the Republican candidate. “I wish there had been a different candidate, neither Clinton nor Trump, but Hillary is pro-abortion and pro-gay. I don’t have anything against gays but God said marriage is between a man and a woman. Clinton thinks a fetus is just a cell even though in the New Testament it says that God knows us and is with us from the moment we are created, from the moment the fetus is in the woman’s belly. I don’t think Trump is really against abortions — it’s not first place on his agenda, but Clinton and Obama took active measures for abortions. Trump will presumably work only on fixing the economy, and that’s good for everyone.”

Jaime adds that Trump’s remarks about Hispanics didn’t hurt him at all: “You could say I’m a mature Hispanic,” he says with a laugh. “Trump talks in a hurtful way and he hurts people, but not me.”

A salesman in a store on Jefferson Boulevard, Oak Cliff’s main commercial street, in the Hispanic neighborhood, appears exhausted as he watches the news. He prefers to remain anonymous and asks his teenage daughter to translate his remarks from Spanish. He explains that Clinton’s and the Democrats’ support for abortions is what prevented his many friends from voting last week: “They didn’t vote for Hillary. Yes, I know a lot of people who stayed home because of that.”

‘Trump voters have forgotten their roots’

Other residents of the neighborhood say they feel betrayed, and that Latinos who voted for Trump “have forgotten their roots.” Franco, who works in Oak Cliff, says these voters were Americans who are jealous of undocumented immigrants. “There are a lot of immigrants without papers here who succeed. That’s not because they don’t have papers, of course. It’s because they work very hard. But maybe people who have citizenship and see their success don’t like it.”

Harold Ojeda, who lives in the neighborhood, hasn’t yet recovered from Trump’s victory and has a hard time finding words to explain how Hispanics agreed to vote for him. “I don’t know anyone here who voted for Trump,” he says.

It is still difficult to determine just how many Latinos voted for Trump. Only next year will a comprehensive survey on the issue be published. The Hispanic vote “was no doubt a record, but we have to wait until April or May to have the definitive figures,” Mark Hugo Lopez, director of Hispanic Research at Pew, said in an interview to AFP.
Lopez estimated that of the more than 27 million registered Latino voters, fewer than half — some 13 million — actually cast ballots. While some supported Trump, the majority voted for Clinton and they helped her win states such as Colorado and Nevada. “Red” Texas did not turn blue, but Trump’s lead in the popular vote was just 9 percent, compared to a 12-percent lead for Romney in 2012 and for the Republican candidate who lost to President Barack Obama in 2008, John McCain.

But in Florida, Trump received 400,000 votes more than Romney had from Latino voters. Trump swept the Cuban-American community in that states, which leans Republican and opposes the thaw in relations with Havana under Obama. According to the polling and research firm Latino Decisions, 52 percent of Cuban-American voters in Florida cast their ballots for the organization’s poll. That organization is one of a number that have challenged the exit polls, and it found that nationally, support for Trump among Latino voters was just 18 percent.

Matt Barreto, a political science professor at UCLA who is co-founder and managing partner of

Latino Decisions, presented the findings of the organization’s polls in a webinar on Wednesday.

Gerardo Robles, a first-generation Mexican immigrant community activist, is already trying to reconcile the sides and is calling for a show of understanding. “A cousin of mine voted for Trump but he was in the army and I think that for him it’s connected. I don’t know. ... There are Hispanics who have been here for several generations now. Maybe they voted with their American identity, not with their Hispanic identity.”