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Florida’s Hispanic vote nearly doubled in 2018. What will it do next year?

The Hispanic-specific data, compiled by Univision and Political Data Inc., shows that campaigns and candidates who make early investments in Spanish-language media and advertising efforts are reaching more potential voters in Florida than ever before.
Then-Florida Gov. Rick Scott thanks Osceola County volunteers who are assisting with the relief effort for Puerto Rico in the wake of Hurricane Maria during a visit to the Osceola County Services warehouse in Kissimmee in 2017. [Joe Burbank | Orlando Sentinel via AP]
Then-Florida Gov. Rick Scott thanks Osceola County volunteers who are assisting with the relief effort for Puerto Rico in the wake of Hurricane Maria during a visit to the Osceola County Services warehouse in Kissimmee in 2017. [Joe Burbank | Orlando Sentinel via AP]
Published Apr. 22, 2019

WASHINGTON -- Florida’s Hispanic electorate grew by 81 percent between the 2014 and 2018 midterm elections, and Hispanics who registered to vote as independents grew by 101 percent, meaning Hispanics are the fastest-growing portion of Florida’s electorate heading into the 2020 election.

The Hispanic-specific data, compiled by Univision and Political Data Inc., shows that campaigns and candidates who make early investments in Spanish-language media and advertising efforts are reaching more potential voters in Florida than ever before. Hispanic voter registration and turnout trends in Miami-Dade County, home to 44 percent of the state’s Hispanic electorate in 2018, mirrored statewide trends.

“This data demonstrates that our community, especially its younger members, played a crucial role in the 2018 election where the Senate seat and various congressional seats in Florida changed parties less than a year ago,” Univision CEO Vince Sadusky said in a statement. “2020 is shaping up to be an especially competitive election and, particularly in many large states including Florida with significant Latino populations, we have no doubt Hispanic America will play a key role in picking the next president and which party controls Congress.”

Univision will present Hispanic voter data from multiple states in an April 30 event in Washington.

Florida Sen. Rick Scott focused heavily on Hispanic voters in his successful 2018 campaign, spending millions to run Spanish-language ads during major events like the 2018 FIFA World Cup and touting his visits to Puerto Rico throughout the campaign. The Spanish-language TV campaigning, combined with an anti-socialism message in South Florida, helped Scott and Gov. Ron DeSantis win narrow victories over Democrats.

The growth of Hispanic voters was double the growth rate of the entire electorate between 2014 and 2018, and 1.3 million Hispanics voted in 2018 compared to 748,000 in 2014. The voter turnout rate among Hispanics jumped from 38.1 percent of eligible Hispanic voters in 2014 to 53.7 percent in 2018.

Fernand Amandi, a Miami-based Democratic pollster, said Puerto Ricans helped fuel Hispanic voter growth across Florida in 2018 and that many of them chose to register as independents. He said Republicans did a better job of engaging that community in 2018, though it will be tougher for President Donald Trump to replicate their success in 2020 in a state he almost assuredly needs to win if he wants a second term.

“Part of the challenge here is you can make a strong case of accusing Florida Democrats of malpractice because they consider Hispanics part of their base,” Amandi said. “Republicans don’t. They do an extraordinary job of actually engaging them and campaigning and making the case to that electorate. If the Republicans show up, and the Democrats don’t, the Hispanic voter is likely going to go with the candidate that’s there versus the candidate that’s not there.”

The Hispanic electorate also grew between the last two presidential elections in Florida, according to an analysis by University of Florida professor Dan Smith, though the growth rate from 63.1 percent of active voters in 2012 to 68.9 percent of active voters in 2016 was lower than the growth rate in the last two midterm elections. Non-presidential elections typically have a lower turnout than presidential elections, though the 2018 election had two high-profile statewide races for the U.S. Senate and governor.

The data also shows how Hispanic Republicans in Miami shaped statewide races. Despite voter registration growth among Hispanics in Miami-Dade lagging behind statewide Hispanic growth rates, turnout among Hispanics in Miami-Dade was three percentage points higher than the statewide Hispanic average. That means more Hispanic voters who were previously registered showed up at the polls, evidence that older, Cuban-American voters who tend to vote Republican showed up in 2018. In many precincts across Miami-Dade, Scott and DeSantis outperformed Donald Trump’s 2016 showing.

And younger Hispanic voters more than doubled between 2014 and 2018, though they are still a small portion of the electorate. About 144,000 Hispanics aged 18-34 voted in Miami-Dade County and about 261,000 Hispanics in that age group voted statewide in 2018, up from about 49,000 and 109,000 voters respectively in 2014.

“I think what we saw in 2018 was the first wave of those people who turned 18 in 2010, 2011, 2013 start entering the electorate in bigger and bigger numbers in Florida,” Amandi said. “It’s not a monolithically Republican electorate like it was 20-30 years ago.”

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