Trump showing new strength with Latinos, losing some older voters: exit polls

(Reuters) – As voting sites closed throughout the United States on Tuesday, exit polls conducted by Edison Research provided some insight on major issues driving the presidential vote and an early read on voter support.

Here are some highlights from the poll, which is based on in-person interviews with voters on Tuesday, in-person interviews at early voting centers before Election Day and telephone interviews with people who voted by mail.

NEW STRENGTH WITH LATINOS

In an emerging story on election night, Republican President Donald Trump was showing some surprising strength with Latino voters in key states such as Florida and Texas.

In Florida, according to exit polls, Trump and Democratic rival Joe Biden were splitting the Latino vote. In 2016, Trump only won four out of 10 Latino voters in his race against Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. Overall, he was winning three of 10 nonwhite voters versus winning just two of 10 four years ago.

Trump maintained his advantage among white voters. According to Edison Research exit polls, six in 10 white voters said they cast ballots for Trump, unchanged from 2016.

The Trump campaign made winning over Cuban-American voters in populous South Florida a top priority by emphasizing the administration’s hardline policy toward Cuba and Venezuela.

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In Texas, four in 10 Hispanics voted for Trump, up from three in 10 in 2016, according to exit polls in that state.

Edison’s national exit poll showed that while Biden led Trump among nonwhite voters, Trump had received a slightly higher proportion of the nonwhite vote than he did in 2016. The poll showed that about 11% of African Americans, 31% of Hispanics and 30% of Asian Americans voted for Trump, up 3 percentage points from 2016 among all three groups.

OLD TRUMP BASE ERODING

Trump may need his improved performance with nonwhite voters to offset losses within his traditional political base. He appears to have lost support among white men and older people in Georgia and Virginia, key parts of the Republican’s voter base, according to Edison polls.

While Trump is still winning the majority of those voters, some of them switched to supporting Biden, the exit polls showed.

Edison’s polls showed Trump winning seven in 10 white men in Georgia, down from an eight-in-10 advantage over Clinton in 2016. While Trump is winning six in 10 voters who are at least 65 years old in Georgia, that is down from seven in 10 four years ago.

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Final election results from both states have yet to be tallied, but Biden has been projected to win Virginia. Clinton also won the state in 2016.

In Virginia, Trump was winning six in 10 whites without college degrees, down from seven in 10 in 2016. Trump was also winning six in 10 white men in Virginia, down from seven in 10 in 2016.

In more encouraging news for the president, Trump was winning six in 10 voters in Virginia who have an income of $100,000 or more.

COVID CONCERNS

The national Edison Research poll results revealed deep concern about the coronavirus pandemic that has infected more than 9.4 million people in the United States this year and killed more than 230,000.

While only two of 10 voters nationally said COVID-19 was the issue that mattered most in their choice for president, half of U.S. voters believe it is more important to contain the coronavirus even if it hurts the economy.

Trump has made the full opening of the U.S. economy a centerpiece of his re-election campaign, even as infections continue to rise. Biden has claimed Trump is undeserving of a second term because of his handling of the pandemic.

In the national exit poll, four out of 10 voters said they thought the effort to contain the virus was going “very badly.” In the battleground states of Florida and North Carolina, five of 10 voters said the national response to the pandemic was going “somewhat or very badly.”

Six of 10 said the pandemic had created at least a moderate financial hardship. Seven in 10 said wearing a face mask in public was a “public health responsibility” versus three in 10 who saw it as a personal choice.

The poll found that nine out of 10 voters had already decided whom to vote for before October, and nine out of 10 voters said they were confident that their state would accurately count votes.

Other issues that were top of mind for voters included the economy, racial inequality, crime and safety, and healthcare policy.

Edison compiles exit polls and live election results for the National Election Pool media consortium.

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