A Puerto Rico Lookahead

May 30, 2008 4:53pm

If Hillary Clinton does well in Puerto Rico on Sunday, it shouldn’t be a surprise: She’s been strong among Hispanic Democrats all year, a group that lifted her to victory notably in the California and Texas primaries; and likewise among Catholics. Put the two together – Hispanic Catholic voters – and you’ve got a powerful Clinton advantage.

There’s plenty of overlap between the two groups. In exit polls conducted in this year’s Democratic primaries to date, 63 percent of Hispanics have identified themselves as Catholics, far higher than the proportion of Catholics in other groups. Nearly all Puerto Ricans are Hispanics, and 85 percent are reported to be Catholics. The population also is lower-income and lower-education than the mainland’s, another two good groups for Clinton.

Among all Hispanics voting in Democratic primaries to date, Clinton’s beaten Barack Obama by 61-35 percent, compared with her 55-38 percent margin among whites (and his 82-15 percent among African-Americans). Among Catholics, Clinton’s also beaten Obama by 61-35 percent. And among Catholic Hispanics, by 69-29 percent, a 40-point margin.

Non-Catholic Hispanics are another matter; Clinton’s won them as well, but by a much narrower 51-46 percent. And there are differences by combined racial and ethnic self-identification. Among voters identifying themselves as black Hispanics (5 percent of all Hispanic voters), Obama’s beat Clinton by 69-30 percent. Among white Hispanics (12 percent of all Hispanics), Clinton’s held a 13-point advantage, 54-41 percent. And among those who’ve identified themselves as Hispanics racially and ethnically alike, Clinton’s lead has been largest – a 2-1 margin, 66-33 percent.

When Clinton won Texas and California, she did so with support from 66 and 67 percent of Hispanic voters, respectively. She won 68 percent of Hispanics in New Jersey and 73 percent in her home state, New York. Obama split Hispanics with Clinton in his home state, Illinois, while winning the state overall by more than 30 percentage points.

A new Field Poll in California shows Hispanics there are much more apt to say they’d support Clinton than Obama in a November matchup against John McCain. But they’re essentially no more likely to support McCain if Obama’s the candidate; rather, to be undecided or currently to favor someone else. If Hispanics in California aren’t thronging to Obama, neither are they ruling him out for November. The question in Puerto Rico, though, is whether they prefer him against Clinton. So far, relatively few have.

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