The polls have tightened in the last remaining days of the 2016 presidential campaign, spurring renewed optimism among Donald Trump’s supporters that the GOP nominee may pull off the upset on Tuesday. Despite the tightening of the polls, some analysts have warned against getting too caught up in ‘phantom swings’ in the polls, and insist – despite the polling noise – the election is shaping up eerily similar to the final days of the 2012 race.
Trump has suggested at various times along the presidential race that there is a ‘Silent Majority’ amongst Trump’s supporters who are not sufficiently being accounted for in public polling, but will nevertheless help him over-perform on Election Day. His theory will be tested on Election Day, but it has largely been debunked. What if, however, there is indeed a ‘Silent Majority’ of voters not being picked up by public polls? There’s growing evidence that that is indeed the case and that it will be Hillary – not Trump – who benefits from America’s 21st-Century version of a ‘Silent Majority.’
The Latino share of the U.S. electorate has steadily risen for the past several election cycles. In 2016, it is estimated that 27.3 million Latinos – about 12 percent of the electorate – will be eligible to vote. This critical demographic vote has always sided with the Democratic presidential nominee since the 1980s, but their overall impact on election outcomes has been rather tepid, due historically to low voter turnout and a lack of concentration in battleground states, both of which are likely to change significantly this cycle.
The Latino voter advocacy group, Latino Decisions, has been following trends in Latino voting patterns during this election cycle, and they have cautioned that most national polls being conducted are likely underrepresenting Latinos. A recent POLITICO report on the undercurrent of strong Latino enthusiasm in early voting also pointed out that public polls historically miss the mark in accounting for Latino likely voters. As the article points out:
Latinos are much harder to reach than any other racial or ethnic group that makes up a significant share of the electorate, which makes them a challenge for pollsters. And with the landscape flooded by cheaper, lower-quality polls, the risk that pollsters are missing large numbers of Hispanic voters — or that the Latinos they are reaching are not fully representative — is substantial.
The likely underrepresentation of Latinos in public polling conducted this cycle is a stark contrast to the expected historical numbers of Latinos that are expected to turn up at the polls. Latino Decisions projects that up to 14.7 million Latinos will vote this election cycle – a 5 percent increase from 2012. Clinton is expected to capture 79 percent of these votes, which would be more than the 75 percent and 71 percent that Latino Decisions and exit polls each projected that Obama captured in the 2012 race.
Early voting statistics among Latinos indicates that there may be a perfect storm brewing in Hillary’s favor. Early voting Latinos in Florida have increased nearly 100 percent from 2012, while early voter turnout by Latinos in Nevada has been such that many analysts believe Clinton may in effect have already won the state barring miraculous Republican turnout on Election Day. Meanwhile the new battleground of Arizona is reportedly leading the nation in the surge of Latinos showing up for the polls before Election Day. Historically ruby red state, Texas, has also seen a sharp increase in Latinos casting votes early.
Could this be the year that the long-rumored sleeping giant of American politics – Latino voters – awakens and truly swings a presidential election? We’ll have to wait until Tuesday night to answer that question, but if early voting trends are any indication, it may be time to dust off the ‘Silent Majority’ label first introduced in the 80s and bestow it upon a pivotal 21st-Century voting bloc who may swing presidential election outcomes for generations to come.