No, Cuban-Americans Did Not Cost Hillary Florida

Date:   November 14, 2016
To:       Interested Parties

From:  Giancarlo Sopo & Guillermo Grenier, Ph.D.

Re:      Cuban-American Voters in the 2016 Election

Key Points

  • Hillary Clinton’s performance among Cuban-American voters in Florida was strong by historical standards, a sign that the Sunshine State’s Cuban-American vote is still up for grabs. Democrats saw significant improvements from 2012 in Miami-Dade County, as well as Hialeah and Westchester, the two communities with the highest concentration of Cuban-American voters.
  • There is no evidence that the Cuban-American vote was decisive in Florida or that President Obama’s Cuba policy hurt Clinton’s chances. A majority of Cuban-American voters support the new U.S. policy and a significant share of the policy’s supporters are Trump voters.
  • White non-Hispanic voters were the key to Donald Trump’s victory. Clinton would have lost Florida even if she had won the Cuban-American vote by five points.

How Cuban-Americans Voted in 2016

An Edison Research exit poll used by television networks and a Latino Decisions election eve survey show Hillary Clinton earning 41% and 47%, respectively, of Florida’s Cuban-American vote.[1] As the following chart shows, Clinton’s performance was strong and the second best ever for a Democratic presidential candidate among Florida’s traditionally Republican Cuban-American community.
screen-shot-2016-11-14-at-4-05-34-pm
The Latino Decisions study also found that Clinton won a majority (50%)[2] of the country’s Cuban-American voters, the highest share ever recorded for a Democratic presidential candidate. Approximately three out of 10 (32%) Cuban-Americans live outside of Florida.[3]

Democrats Saw Gains in Areas With Large Cuban Populations

Hillary Clinton surpassed President Obama’s 2012 performance in Miami-Dade County, Hialeah, and Westchester. This would seem to bolster the argument that Cuban-Americans are increasingly voting Democratic and weakens the case that President Obama’s Cuba policy softened support for Clinton.

  • In Miami-Dade County, where one out of three residents is Cuban-American, Clinton won by nearly 30 points, 63.7% to 34.1%, an 81,196-vote improvement for Democrats from 2012.[4]
Obama / Romney 541,440 61.6% 332,981 37.9% + 208,459 + 23.7 pts.
Clinton / Trump 623,636 63.7% 333,901 34.1% + 289,735 + 29.6 pts.
Difference +81,196 + 2.1 pts. + 920 – 3.8 pts + 81,276 + 5.9 pts.
  • Democrats made inroads in the majority Cuban[5] and traditionally Republican[6] city of Hialeah[7] where Clinton exceeded President Obama’s 2012 vote totals by 5,950 votes. Conversely, Republicans saw their 9.1-point 2012 margin vanish.
Obama / Romney 27,675 45.2% 33,267 54.3% + 5,592 + 9.1 pts.
Clinton / Trump 33,625 48.9% 33,718 49% + 93 + 0.1 pts.
Difference + 5,950 + 3.7 pts. + 451 – 5.3 pts. – 5,499 – 9 pts.
  • In addition, Democrats saw a 14-point improvement from 2012 in the suburb of Westchester[8], the U.S. community with the highest percentage of residents born in Cuba.
Obama / Romney 4,463 36% 7,856 63% + 3,393 + 27 pts.
Clinton / Trump 5,480 42% 7,219 55% + 1,739 + 13 pts.
Difference + 1,107 + 6 pts. – 637 – 8pts. – 1,654 – 14 pts.

The Role of U.S. Cuba Policy in the Election

Some have claimed that President Obama’s Cuba policy may have cost Clinton in Florida. We found no evidence to support this. It is unclear what, if any, role U.S-Cuba policy plays in determining how Cuban-Americans vote. Strong majorities of Cuban-Americans and Floridians favor engagement with Cuba.

  • According to an August 2016 survey by Florida International University (FIU), 64% of Cuban-Americans in Miami-Dade County support the new Cuba policies, including 55% of Cuban-American voters. The study also found that 58% of Cuban-American voters support the Obama-Clinton policy of ending the U.S. embargo, and 61% support diplomatic relations with the island.
  • FIU also found that among the Cuban-Americans voters who said they support the new U.S. policy, four out of 10 (41.6%) identified themselves as Trump supporters.
  • Support for the new Cuba policy extends beyond the Cuban-American community. The most recent Bloomberg poll showed 67% of likely Florida voters favor engagement with Cuba.

The Cuban-American Vote Was Not Decisive in Florida

Since at least 1980, Florida’s Cuban-American voters have leaned Republican, but have trended Democratic in recent elections. Some are suggesting that Cuban-Americans cost Hillary Clinton the state. Two conditions would be required for this to be true: (1) Clinton’s performance among Cuban-Americans would have to be unusually low and (2) Clinton would have won the state had she mirrored past performances among Cuban-Americans—both are false.

  • Cuban-American voters were approximately six percent (570,878) of the 9,415,638 Florida voters[9] who cast a ballot for President and 6.7% of Trump’s supporters in the state.
  • Despite stronger showings for Democrats in Miami-Dade County and Cuban-American neighborhoods, some may cite polls to argue that Clinton under-performed President Obama’s 2012 share (48%) of the Cuban-American electorate by anywhere between one (47%) to seven (41%) points. However, a one to seven-point gap between Clinton and Obama’s shares of Cuban-American voters would only account for approximately 5,708 to 39,962 votes—well short of Clinton’s statewide deficit of 114,455-votes.
  • In fact, ceteris paribus, Clinton would have still lost Florida (and the election) even if she had defeated Trump by five points among Cuban-American voters. It is therefore clear that Cuban-American voters were not the deciding factor in Present-elect Trump’s victory.

White Non-Hispanic Voters Propelled Trump to Victory in Florida

As was the case across the country, Trump’s performance among white non-Hispanic voters was, by far, the single most important factor to his victory in Florida.

  • In 2016, white non-Hispanic voters were 62% of the electorate; yet, they made-up 81% of Trump’s statewide coalition. Republicans made gains in predominantly white non-Hispanic counties. For example: Trump’s margin over Clinton in Pasco County was 51,945 votes, a 14,164 vote improvement for the GOP compared to 2012. In Lake County, Trump’s victory margin was an increase of 13,447 votes for Republicans since the last presidential election.
  • Sixty-four percent of Florida’s white, non-Hispanic voters supported Donald Trump, while 32% backed Hillary Clinton. In 2012, President Obama and Mitt Romney received 61% and 37%, respectively, of Florida’s white non-Hispanic voters. Trump’s 32-point advantage was an eight-point improvement for the GOP from 2012.

Had Clinton mirrored Obama’s 2012 performance among Florida’s white non-Hispanic voters and kept Trump at Romney’s support levels, she would have narrowed her 2016 gap among this demographic by approximately 467,015 votes and kept Florida in the Democrats’ column.



UPDATE (11/16/16 at 7:59 PM):
A previous version of this memo hypothetically stated that Clinton would have lost to Trump even if she had won the Cuban-American vote by five, 10, or 15 points. This has been corrected given that under certain models, depending on the size of the vote for third-party candidates and turn-out levels for other demographics, a Clinton victory would have been possible had she won Cuban-Americans by 10 points or more. This does not change the memo’s main conclusions given the unlikeliness of a 10-point victory for a Democratic presidential candidate among Cuban-American voters.


About the Authors

Giancarlo Sopo is a communication strategist and founder of CubaOne Foundation. He was formerly the head of marketing and a communications consultant at Benenson Strategy Group, as well as a teaching fellow on Leadership and Presidential Politics at the Harvard University Extension School.

Guillermo J. Grenier, Ph.D., is a professor of sociology and graduate program director in the Department of Global & Sociocultural Studies in the Steven J. Green School of International and Public Affairs at Florida International University. Dr. Grenier has authored and co-authored six books and dozens of articles on labor, migration, immigrant incorporation, and Cuban-American ideological profiles.


[1] The Florida Latino Decisions survey has a sample size of 250 Cuban-American voters, a margin of error of +/- 6.2%. The Edison Research survey had a sample of
  approximately 240 Cuban-American voters with a margin of error of +/- 6.3%. The two findings are statistically consistent given their margins of error.
[2] N = 300 with a margin of error of +/- 5.7%
[3] Source: Lopez, Gustavo. (2015, September 15). “Hispanics of Cuban Origin in the United States, 2013.” Pew Research Center.
  Retrieved: 11/13/16 at 10:11 AM (http://www.pewhispanic.org/2015/09/15/hispanics-of-cuban-origin-in-the-united-states-2013/)
[4] Source: Miami-Dade County Elections. Retrieved: 11/11/16 at 4:10 PM. (http://results.enr.clarityelections.com/FL/Dade/64620/182932/en/summary.html)
[5] Source: 2015 American Community Survey, United States Census Bureau. Retrieved: 11/13/16 at 10:47 AM. (http://factfinder.census.gov)
[6] Source: Miami Dade-County Elections. Retrieved: 11/13/16 at 12:22 PM (http://www.miamidade.gov/elections/voter-registration-statistics.asp)
[7] Hialeah and Westchester vote totals are from Miami-Dade County Elections and can be found at http://goo.gl/kuFY33
[8] Westchester is defined as the area south of SW 8th Street to SW 40th Street & West of SW 77th Avenue to SW 97th Avenue
[9] Source: Florida Division of Elections. Retrieved: 11/13/16 at 3:47 PM. (http://enight.elections.myflorida.com/FederalOffices/Presidential/)
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New Poll: Clinton +14 with Florida Hispanics

A new CBS / YouGov poll released today shows Hillary Clinton leading Donald Trump by five points among likely voters in Florida, including a 14-point advantage among Hispanics.

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While we shouldn’t read too deeply into this cross-tab, since the Hispanic sample of the 1,194-person poll was 184, a margin of error of +/- 72%, it’s a good sign for Democrats for a few reasons:

  1. Ninety-four percent of Hispanic voters who selected Trump or Clinton said that they’re unlikely to change their minds—the highest level of certainty among any demographic.
  2. With less than three months to go before Election Day, Clinton’s +14 lead is similar and within the margin of error of President Obama’s 2008 (+15) and 2012 (+21) performance with Hispanics, which were widely seen as critical to placing Florida in the Democratic column both years.
  3. Conversely, Trump’s 39% share of the Florida Hispanic vote, while high compared to his national average, mirrors Mitt Romney’s 2012 performance, the lowest for a GOP presidential candidate in recent state history.

The only demographic where Trump leads Clinton in Florida is with white voters who make up approximately 67% of the electorate and where he’s winning by 11 points, 48-37.  Silver lining? Not exactly. Trump is underperforming Romney’s 2012 numbers among whites by 14 points in Florida.

As the race currently stands, Clinton can lose Florida—along with Iowa, Ohio, and Nevada—and still become President, but these latest numbers point to a decisive win in the Sunshine State.

No, Tim Kaine Isn’t “Hispandering”

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Source: UPI/Barcroft Images

A recent Time op-ed argued that Hillary Clinton’s running-mate, Sen. Tim Kaine, was among a long list of examples of American brands and leaders that pander to Latinos.

When Clinton announced her pick, many Latino pundits were disappointed, but there was a silver lining offered: Tim Kaine speaks SpanishRather than address the lack of people of color running for and winning higher office, Latino communities were expected to be content with the fact that Kaine speaks both English and Spanish.

Big deal. So do I. So does my family. So do millions of Latinos. So did Jeb Bush, now the long-forgotten Republican presidential candidate hopeful. The U.S. has the second most Spanish speakers in the world, following Mexico. Roughly 11.6 million people in the U.S. are bilingual.

Yes, capturing the hearts and minds of a diverse $1.3 trillion market is a top priority for U.S. companies and political parties, and some get their Latino outreach horribly wrong. Tim Kaine isn’t one of those people.

The three basic rules for engaging Latino voters and consumers are: (1) Be Authentic: Latino consumers and voters are sophisticated and can sniff out phonies. We want policies and brands that advance our communities and we will not automatically support you merely because you speak Spanish, particularly Latino millennials; (2) Values Matter: All Latinos want to know that you respect our culture and share our values; and (3) Understand the Nuances: Brands and politicians should understand the diversity among Latinos. Salvadorians in Columbia Heights, Boricuas in Alphabet City, and Cubans in Kendall are all Latinos, but they’re also different consumers.

Tim Kaine’s Latino outreach doesn’t just follow these rules, it embodies them. Here’s why:

  1. Authenticity: Kaine’s near-perfect Spanish isn’t a phony focus group concoction; it’s who he is. He didn’t learn Spanish to win votes, and he doesn’t just speak it come election time. More importantly, his policy positions—from immigration reform to health care to taxes, education, and U.S. Cuba relations—are perfectly aligned with the views of the majority of voters within Latino communities.
  2. Values: How Tim Kaine learned Spanish—as a Jesuit missionary helping impoverished families in Honduras—speaks volumes about his personal values, and most importantly, it shows that he values Latinos. Regardless of whether you’re a Spanish-speaking Latino or not, all Latinos can respect Kaine’s life story and the fact that he’s a white politician who embraces their culture at a time when it’s under attack.
  3. Nuances: Hillary Clinton introduced Tim Kaine in Miami where speaking Spanish isn’t just smart politics, it’s necessary to a large and critical voting and consumer bloc in the country’s top swing state. For example, in the Miami media market, Univision and Telemundo newscasts frequently win the ratings battles among all demographics.

While it’s true that Clinton would have likely won Latino voters by large margins regardless of whom she selected as her running mate, based on what I’ve described above, we shouldn’t dismiss Tim Kaine’s role in helping to broaden or deepen her support among Latinos and/or non-Latino voters who value diversity. It would be wise for Latino leaders to resist accusing someone who has dedicated his life to serving our communities, shares our values, and understands our diversity of pandering merely because he speaks Spanish.

Kaine’s fluency, life decisions, and values should be praised by Latinos, as should those of other politicians and brands that follow suit.

Twain or Twitter?

“I didn’t have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead.”
– Mark Twain

Between work and travel, it’s been difficult to do any writing recently beyond 140 characters.

So, I’m launching my own blog to write about topics that I’m passionate about and where I hope that my insights can add some value to the public discourse, mainly:

  • Communications & PR
  • Polling
  • Politics
  • Marketing
  • Latino Issues & Cuba
  • Economics
  • Food & Travel
  • And sometimes a mix of all of the above.

I’ll try to keep my posts short and sweet (think Seth Godin’s blog), hoping to strike a happy medium between Twain and Twitter while trying my best to adhere to Ogilvy’s rules.

Follow along and if you have any questions / thoughts, feel free to reach out.

– Giancarlo