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What Nevada showed about Trump's Hispanic support - and what it didn't

Story highlights

  • After entrance polls suggested he won the Latino vote, Trump declared he was "No. 1" with Hispanics
  • The data is a little more complicated than that

(CNN)Among the things Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump highlighted Tuesday night in his victory speech after winning the Nevada caucuses was that he carried the Latino vote.

    "You know what I'm really happy about, because we've saying it for a long time? Forty-six percent with the Hispanics! Forty-six percent! Number one with Hispanics!," the real estate mogul said.
    But both his claim -- and the entrance poll data he was basing it on -- run counter to most polling of Latinos nationwide.
    A new survey from The Washington Post and Univision finds 8-in-10 Latinos view Trump unfavorably, and 7-in-10 view him very unfavorably, more than any other candidate. That survey could leave out a substantial share of Latino voters, however, because of the way it sampled Hispanic or Latino registered voters.
    When Trump said he was "No. 1 with Hispanics," he was referring to entrance polls showing that among Hispanic Republicans who participated in Tuesday's Nevada caucuses, 45% voted for him, compared to 27% for Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, a Cuban-American; and 18% for Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, also a Cuban-American.
    For a candidate who accused Mexicans immigrants of being "rapists" and "killers" and has repeatedly promised that he will build a wall between Mexico and the United States (a promise he reiterated Tuesday saying Mexico will pay for it), winning Hispanics was indeed a significant victory.
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    Too early for conclusions?

    There are some important caveats to consider, though, before concluding the Nevada caucuses show Trump has solid support among Hispanic voters.
    First, the Nevada GOP caucuses were closed to people not already registered as Republicans -- that means Trump won the subset of Latino voters who were already Republicans. What's more, according to the entrance polls, just 8% of the voters taking part in the GOP caucuses said they were Latinos.
    The full sample size of voters captured by the polls was 1,573. That means Trump's claim that he is "No. 1 with Hispanics" is based on about 125 registered Republicans.

    How many Hispanics have voted?

    It's also important to remember that, nationally, 36% of Hispanic voters are Republican compared to 62% who are Democrats, according to data from the Pew Research Center. Many of the Latino voters offended by Trump's comments over the last few months may not have had a chance yet to express their disgust at the polls.
    President Barack Obama carried 71% of the Latino vote in 2012, according to the Pew Research Center. The U.S. Hispanic population hovers around 55 million. Of those, around 27 million are eligible to vote. In 2012, roughly half of those eligible Hispanic voters cast a ballot.

    Vocal opposition to Trump

    Trump has made enemies within the U.S. Hispanic community and also south of the border.
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    Celebrities like Honduran-American actress America Ferrara, Puerto Rican singer Ricky Martin and Univision anchor Jorge Ramos, who is Mexican, all have denounced Trump's rhetoric, not to mention Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto and his predecessor Felipe Calderón.
    "Mexican people, we are not going to pay any single cent for such a stupid wall, and they need to know that. And it's going to be completely useless," Calderón told CNBC February 6.
    Even the conciliatory Pope Francis has been at odds with Donald Trump. On his way back to Rome from a 5-day trip to Mexico earlier this month the pontiff criticized Trump's plans to build a wall at the U.S.-Mexico border.
    "A person who thinks only about building walls, wherever they may be, and not building bridges, is not Christian. This is not the gospel," the Pope told journalists who asked his opinion on Trump's proposals to halt illegal immigration.
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    Fifty-seven percent of Hispanics in the U.S. are Catholic, but whether the Pope's words translate into votes against Trump remains to be seen.

    Not a monolithic bloc

    When it comes to the Latino voting bloc, one thing is clear: it's not monolithic. They went Democratic for Obama in 2012 (71%).
    But George W. Bush garnered 44% of the Hispanic vote in 2004 -- the best showing ever for a Republican.
    There are Cuban-Americans in the mix who tend to be Republican and conservative, Puerto Ricans who have recently moved to Florida voting Democratic and Mexican-Americans who are all over the place ... just to name a few.
    In the end, it's probably too early for Trump to say that he's "No. 1 with Hispanics."
    But it's also too early to say that he's not, in spite of the anti-immigrant rhetoric that has alienated a significant portion of this voting bloc.