- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 16, 2015

Hispanic voters seem determined to punish Donald Trump for his comments on immigration, according to a new poll released Thursday that finds Latinos already lining up behind Democrats in the 2016 presidential race.

Mr. Trump does the worst of any Republican in head-to-head match-ups with leading Democratic candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton, winning an abysmal 16 percent of the vote. Nine out of 10 Hispanics told pollsters they’d heard Mr. Trump’s statement that Mexico sends rapists and other serious criminals to the U.S., and the vast majority said it was both offensive and indicative of the broader Republican Party.

Other Republicans fare somewhat better than Mr. Trump, but Mrs. Clinton still trounces all of them by more than two-to-one — including former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who has vigorously rebuked Mr. Trump and has vowed to make a play for Hispanic voters.

The poll, taken for Spanish-language network Univision and conducted by Bendixen & Amandi International and the Tarrance Group, was billed as the first full exploration of Hispanic voters heading into the 2016 presidential election, where Latinos are expected to be a major focus.

The survey found widespread support for Univision’s decision to cancel ties with Mr. Trump’s Miss USA pageant in the wake of the businessman’s remarks.

But Hispanics also didn’t seem to tar the GOP more broadly for Mr. Trump, with just 14 percent saying they thought his remarks represented the views of the Republican Party.

Alfonso Aguilar, executive director of the American Principles Project’s Latino Partnership, said the GOP still must confront and “isolate” Mr. Trump, and said it’s up to other presidential candidates to do that.

“They have to rebuke him forcefully,” said Mr. Aguilar, who served in the administration of Mr. Bush’s brother, former President George W. Bush.

Mr. Trump has said his remarks are being mischaracterized and that he wasn’t insulting Mexicans, but rather criticizing Mexican society that pushes its problems — and some of its criminals — to come to the U.S.

Some of his fellow candidates, most notably Mr. Bush and Sen. Lindsey Graham, have accused Mr. Trump of going too far. But the businessman has brushed those complaints aside and mocked Mr. Bush as a bad leader who’s afraid to confront real problems.

Mr. Bush, whose brother did relatively well among Hispanic voters in the 2000 and 2004 elections, runs slightly ahead of the rest of the GOP field that Univision tested, with slightly more than a third of Latinos viewing him favorably.

By contrast, Mrs. Clinton is viewed positively by more than two-thirds of those polled.

Asked about a specific head-to-head matchup in 2016, Mrs. Clinton trounces Mr. Bush, 64-27. She tops Sen. Marco Rubio 66-25, and runs ahead of Sen. Ted Cruz and Sen. Rand Paul both by a 69-22 margin.

“The GOP brand is still hurting. Now having said that it’s still early, it’s a very early poll, but it should send a message to Republicans that they need to get their act together soon,” Mr. Aguilar said.

In 2012, President Obama stomped GOP nominee Mitt Romney, 71-29, among Hispanics.

Mr. Obama retains a strong following among Hispanics, the new poll found, with a favorability rate of 64 percent.

“These favorable percentages suggest that the aspiring Democrat who wins the presidential nomination will not have to hide Obama as he or she campaigns among the nation’s Hispanics,” Univision said in its analysis.

Latinos also rated Democrats higher the economy and immigration.

The 1,400 voters surveyed were overwhelmingly Democratic — though when asked their political leanings, those surveyed were more inclined to say they were “conservative,” at 32 percent, than “liberal,” at 28 percent. Moderates were the plurality at 35 percent.

Voters placed jobs and the economy as their top concern, followed by education and health care. Immigration was fourth, with just 13 percent listing it as their main deciding issue — though a strong majority still said they would reward candidates who support a pathway to citizenship, and would punish candidates who oppose that.

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