Natalie Lally, 22, has always been a registered Republican and has long had more conservative values than the rest of her family. However, when her Colombian family found out who she was voting for they were not exactly jumping for joy.
“They just cannot get over the fact that I am a Donald Trump supporter,” Lally, a journalist, says. “I think they judge him solely on his behavior, rather than his political ideologies.”
Only 12 percent of Latinos have a favorable view of Trump, and 77 percent hold an unfavorable of him, according to Gallup polls from March. In May, a CBS News/ New York Times Poll found that Trump has a 10 percent favorability rating and a 62 percent unfavorability mark among Latinos.
As small as Trump’s share of Latino supporters is, even smaller is the number willing to go public about their support. “You’re constantly in a situation to defend your views, and always ready for a heated political debate to spark at a moment’s notice,” says Lally, who writes for The Tab US, where she penned an extensive article about telling her parents her political views.
Lexi Maurer, whose whole family is also disagrees with her, says she backs the Republican nominee because, “There has to be more of a structure in society, I don’t see that in the Democratic Party.” A native of Queens, Maurer, who just turned 23, says she has always been a registered Republican and believed that to become someone in the United States you have to work hard for it. “My mother came legally from Ecuador and my dad from Europe and they worked hard for everything they have,” she said. “We never got any handouts.”
“I feel like Democrats only want to keep us minorities down,” says Mateo Arboleda, 24, who was born in Colombia and came to the U.S. in 1999. “I am voting Republican because at least they have a vision of unity. They don’t see color; they only see Americans.” Arboleda, however, says his family agrees with his views.
When the New York State presidential primary was held in April, Trump prevailed in the Bronx, winning 4,730 votes out of 7,277. Most of his votes came from Assembly District 82 in the east Bronx, which has a 35 percent Latino population (and is 33 percent white).
Laird Bergad, director of the Center for Latin American, Caribbean, and Latino Studies at the CUNY Graduate Center, says the small number of Latinos voting for Trump is too miniscule to be remarkable. “Latinos are voting Democratically. Almost 90 percent of Latinos voted for Obama in the last elections, and even more are going to vote for Clinton.” When asked if he thought there was room for growth in the Latino community for Trump, “Absolutely not, not the slightest chance. His remarks have been dreadful and outright racist.”
Others note that the support for Trump, while surprising, builds on existing political divisions within the Latino community.
“What people have to understand is that the Latino community is not a homogenous group,” Angelo Falcon, a highly regarded political strategist and advocate for the Latino community, says. “Yes, there is an overwhelming majority voting against Mr. Trump, but there is a percentage that would vote for him, and have voted Republican in the past, like what we saw with Mitt Romney previously.”
To some degree, the Latino population splits generationally, if not always politically. Cristina Beltrán, an associate professor in NYU’s Department of Social and Cultural Analysis, says, “Diversity gets lost in the story, and that is the main issue: There are 55 million Latinos in the US, and they all have different values.” Beltrán, who herself is a second-generation Mexican-American, addsL “Sometimes there are these third or fourth generation Latinos that do not feel connected with the rest of the Hispanic population. They consider themselves Americans first.”
Many pro-Trump Latinos interviewed believe that what Trump lacks in experience he makes up in assertiveness. Denise Galvez is one of the co-founders of the Latinas for Trump Facebook page and has supported the Trump movement relentlessly. According to Galvez, herself a Cuban-American based in Florida, the page received a lot of support from people from various political parties and from many small business owners. “Trump is not a career politician and has funded his own campaign so there is less of a chance for him to sell out,” she says.
“We need to have control; America is always giving and helping, but I think now is the time where we have to step back and take care of ourselves, we have to make sure our home base is safe and stable,” Maurer says in explaining her support for the billionaire.
Even Trump’s noted harsh rhetoric about Mexican does not bother Lally. “Many of his comments are blown out of proportion or taken out of context by the mainstream media. Also, many of his comments are about illegal immigrants, not the ones who came here legally.” Sharing that view, Arboleda says: “Take a trip to our southern border and see the amount of crime that goes on with the Mexican drug cartel and ‘coyotes’ raping young girls.” Arboleda says that while not all Latinos are like this there is a group of wrongdoers whose actions tarnish the larger group.
And support for Trump is often driven by dislike for his Democratic opponent. “Unfortunately with many politicians it is very common for them them to be idealistic, but once they get to Washington they sell out,” Galvez says about Hillary Clinton. “You know, I used to like her but she has fallen victim to the system and she’s not the first.” Lally dismisses the former secretary of state and First Lady as “a corporate puppet who cares more about her own agenda than the well-being of others.”
“Clinton is always being politically correct, has no strategy, and she has no plan,” Maurer says. Arboleda agrees: “She wants to open the door to thousands of Syrian refugees and I’m sure they are not all bad, but it only takes one radical Islam terrorist to get inside and kill many Americans.”
These views reflect a larger sense of disappointment, according to Falcon. “Many Latinos voting for Donald Trump feel like the system hasn’t worked for them, and the Democratic candidate isn’t that inspiring,” Falcon says. “Last year the media was attacking him,” says Falcon. “This year they normalized his campaign and that is part of the problem.”
Deborah Cruz is a summer fellow under our Bronx Investigative Internship Program, funded by the Simon Bolivar Foundation.