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Presidential hopefuls will have to focus on more than just bilingualism to secure the Latino vote, according to one professor.

Credit: Ilana Wurman , Ilana Wurman, Ilana Wurman

Even an election in which Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump once called Mexican immigrants “criminals” and “rapists,” there is little evidence showing that Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton is performing any better among Latino voters compared to previous Democratic presidential candidates.

Clinton’s level of support among Latinos lags behind the level at which they supported President Barack Obama in 2012 in battleground states such as Florida, Arizona, Colorado and Nevada.

In 2012, Obama won the Latino vote with 71 percent compared to GOP nominee Mitt Romney’s 27 percent, which was the largest margin for a Democrat since Bill Clinton, who won 72 percent of Latinos in 1996.

To obtain the Latino vote, presidential candidates throughout the primary and general election have used their Spanish-speaking abilities to appeal to voters, including when Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) yelled at each other in Spanish at a primary debate, and when vice presidential nominee Tim Kaine spoke Spanish in his stump speeches.

“Somos Americanos todos,” Tim Kaine declared at a rally at Miami’s Florida International University — “We’re all American.”

Regardless of the politicians’ bilingual efforts, a Univision survey found that the majority of Latinos — 68 percent — said their vote would not be influenced by whether a candidate spoke fluent Spanish. In fact, only 26 percent said it would sway their vote.

Instead of speaking Spanish to potential voters, Nelson Flores, an assistant professor at the Graduate School of Education, said the presidential candidates should focus on specific policy solutions to issues that matter to Latinos.

“Latinos in the United States are Americans. A lot of the issues that Americans find important are also important to Latinos — like education, the future of their children and jobs,” Flores said. “But an issue that has particular significance to the Latino community is immigration policies because they are often directly impacted.”

Trump’s immigration policies include expelling millions of undocumented immigrants, suggesting the abolition of birthright citizenship and building a wall along the Mexican border.

Only 18 percent of registered Latino voters have a favorable view of Trump according to an August Washington Post-ABC News poll. However, Clinton’s favorability among Hispanics fell that month from 71 percent to 55 percent, a drop outside the sample’s 10-point margin of error.

Flores said politicians who think that immigration reform is the only concern for the Latino community are oversimplifying the issue.

“In the Democratic platform, there is no mention of support for bilingual education,” he said. “I think it is interesting to me that the Democratic party seems to value bilingualism but aren’t taking a specific stance on how bilingualism is important for the American population at large.”

That said, Flores said he understands that people often feel more comfortable speaking Spanish or filling out voter registration in Spanish but he thinks that emphasizing bilingualism is far from enough.

Meanwhile, the Clinton campaign has started to air Spanish-language ads in battleground states in early September.

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