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Poll of Latinos finds that right now, only about half would vote for Biden

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A new poll of Latinos nationwide finds lower-than-usual support for former Vice President Joe Biden's White House bid when compared to past Democratic nominees, amid signs that President Trump's ability to dominate news coverage of the coronavirus pandemic is playing to his advantage with the largest bloc of minority voters.

The survey also finds that Biden would enjoy a significant uptick in enthusiasm among Latino voters if he were to select Nevada Senator Catherine Cortez Masto – the first Latina to serve in the chamber – to be his vice presidential running mate.

Just 49% of Latino registered voters would vote for Biden while another 10% said they were undecided but leaning towards backing him, according to the new poll. Seventeen percent of respondents said they back Mr. Trump, with another 6% undecided but leaning in his direction. Eighteen percent said they are undecided.

Latino Decisions conducted the national poll of Latinos on behalf of SOMOS Community Care, a New York-area network of physicians serving the region's Latino and Asian immigrant communities. Data from the same poll released last week found that more than 65% of Latinos have lost their jobs or suffered a significant reduction in their incomes as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

SOMOS was co-founded by Henry Muñoz, the former finance chairman of the Democratic National Committee and a longtime party moneyman who is close to Biden and his senior advisers.

There is softer-than-anticipated support for Biden among Latinos because Democrats are "creating a vacuum" that reflects a lack of information in the Latino community about how the Trump administration is responding to the crisis, Muñoz said.

"This isn't an ask-people-for-their-vote moment; it's a moment when we should be speaking to Americans about what they're going through and reaching out to them and letting them know that we have their back, because the other party does not, and this president does not," he said. "He is killing us and not testing us and we're losing jobs, and he's taking care of insiders."

In some parts of the country, Latinos are disproportionately affected by coronavirus, with higher rates of infection, hospitalization and death. In San Francisco, for example, Latinos account for 25% of coronavirus cases, but are just 15% of city residents, Mayor London Breed said Monday.

But the poll found generally supportive views for the government's response to the virus. Forty-five percent support how Mr. Trump is handling the pandemic while 55% disapprove. Forty-seven percent of Latinos believe the president "is providing clear and helpful information about the coronavirus," while 50% disagree. Eighty-five percent of respondents agree "State or local officials have made it clear what I should be doing right now to stop the spread of coronavirus." And 81% agreed with the statement, "We are all in this together and need to do whatever we can to prevent the spread of coronavirus," even if it means missing work or school.

"The polling data suggests it has been difficult for Democrats to get their message out. While Trump does not appear to be gaining traction, Latinos appear to be giving him the benefit of the doubt during an unprecedented pandemic," said Albert Morales, senior political director of Latino Decisions. "The good news for Democrats is that they have a presumptive nominee three months sooner than they did in 2016. Enough time to mount an offensive strategy."

Latino Decisions conducted internal polling of Latino voters for Hillary Rodham Clinton's 2016 presidential bid.

Biden currently leads Mr. Trump by single digits in national polls and in surveys released this week of voters in the battleground states of Florida, Michigan and Pennsylvania. Typically, a Democratic presidential candidate needs to earn Latino support at least in the mid-to-high 60% range nationwide to pad a White House victory. Hillary Clinton won 66% of Latino voters in 2016 while Barack Obama won 71% of them in 2012.

Biden has a 50% favorable rating among Latinos overall, 24% view him unfavorably. His former Democratic primary rival, Senator Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont, has a 54% favorable rating and a 20% unfavorable rating. During this year's Democratic primaries, Sanders trounced Biden among Latinos, especially in Nevada, Texas and California, where a substantial share of the Democratic electorate was Hispanic.

Muñoz said Biden's current standing among Latinos reminds him of where Obama was at a similar point during his 2008 presidential bid. But Obama "had access to messaging platforms, like a convention – the creation of narratives, the storytelling – to let people know who he was and where he stood. And we may not have that this year."

So what might help Biden? A Latina running mate, the poll finds.

Sixty-seven percent of registered Latino voters would be more likely to support him if he picks Cortez Masto for the number two slot; 22% would be less likely to support him. Asked another way, 72% said they would be more likely to turn out and actually vote for Biden if he selected the Nevada senator; 17% would be less likely to do so.

The poll did not ask such questions of any other potential vice presidential candidate.

Biden told CBS's "The Late Late Show" this week that he will formally launch his search for a running mate by May 1, and he has vowed for weeks to select a woman. Several potential picks are reportedly under consideration, including former Democratic primary rivals Senators Kamala Harris, of California; Amy Klobuchar, of Minnesota and Elizabeth Warren, of Massachusetts. Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer, New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham, former Georgia State Senator Stacey Abrams and Cortez Masto are also on the list, according to people close to the former vice president.

But the poll found that some of Biden's potential choices are widely unknown.

Thirty-seven percent of respondents haven't heard of Cortez Masto, 36% haven't heard of Lujan Grisham and Harris is unknown by 25% of respondents. The poll didn't ask about other potential running mates.

The survey, conducted April 7 to 12, polled more than 1,200 Latinos nationwide for a margin-of-error of 2.8 percent. Among respondents, 837 are registered to vote and were asked the campaign-related questions for a margin of error or 3.4 percent. The survey was available in English or Spanish; 41 percent answered in Spanish and 59 percent in English.

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