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Donald Trump’s racially charged attacks on a US-born judge of Mexican heritage have put a spotlight on the important role Latinos will play in the forthcoming election — but they are just one of a host of important demographic groups in November.

Latinos could comprise more than 27m eligible voters in November and Hillary Clinton is aggressively courting them in swing states including Florida and Colorado, hoping to capitalise on Mr Trump’s hostile language towards immigrants from Mexico and elsewhere.

But Mrs Clinton also needs to boost her appeal to younger female voters, who have shown more enthusiasm for her Democratic challenger Bernie Sanders. Mr Trump, meanwhile, is counting on his popularity among white men to dislodge the Democrats in parts of the Midwest.

Nationally Mrs Clinton retains a firm lead over Mr Trump in Reuters/Ipsos polling. Some other polls — notably a Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll in late May — put them neck and neck. So how do the candidates square up among four important demographic groups?

Latinos

Latinos will make up around 12 per cent of the electorate this year, according to the Pew Research Center, with California and Texas hosting the two biggest populations. Neither of these is a swing state, however, with Mr Trump likely to clinch Texas and California set to stay in Democratic hands.

In a number of other so-called battleground states, however, America’s Latino community has the potential to wield significant political clout. The critical one is Florida, where 18 per cent of eligible voters are expected to be Latino, followed by Nevada with 17 per cent and Colorado with 14.5 per cent, according to Pew.

Recent polling shows the majority of Latinos supporting Mrs Clinton, confirming a longer-term trend of declining support for the GOP that deeply concerns senior Republicans. However, Latinos have tended to punch below their demographic weight because of low voter turnout. In 2012 the Hispanic turnout was 48 per cent, compared with 66.6 per cent for black voters and 64 per cent for whites.

The question this year is whether antagonism towards Mr Trump — who has pledged to deport an estimated 11m people living in the US illegally and build a wall on the southern border — will galvanise a large turnout.

White men

Are there enough white men for Donald Trump to win? That is the crude but critical question hanging over the property mogul’s campaign.

After Mitt Romney’s defeat to Barack Obama in 2012, Republican strategists concluded the party had maximised its support from white voters and needed to diversify its appeal. But Mr Trump is attempting to shred that idea. If his campaign depends on one big demographic assumption, it is that if he wins a big enough share of white men it will offset losses with other groups.

Counting against Mr Trump is the fact that this year’s electorate will be the least white and most diverse in US history, with 31 per cent of eligible voters being Hispanic, black, Asian or another racial or ethnic minority, according to Pew.

But in his favour is a New York Times analysis that found millions more older, white, working class people voted in 2012 than exit polls had suggested, a sign he has a bigger pool of potential voters than thought.

White men helped propel him to the nomination, but a narrative of his dependence on blue-collar workers who did not go to college has given way to a realisation he has plenty of well-off, well-educated supporters too.

In the New York primary, for example, he won 55 per cent of white college graduates as well as 65 per cent of whites with no degree.

In the general election matchup Mr Trump is winning white men by a margin of 69 per cent to 22 per cent versus Mrs Clinton, according to a Washington Post/ABC poll in May. Ipsos-Reuters tracking polls from April to June suggest a much narrower lead of 48-35. If Mr Trump did reach nearly 70 per cent he would surpass the share of white men won by Mitt Romney and John McCain as well as George W Bush in 2004.

Women

Women have tended to lean towards the Democrats in recent US elections, exit polling shows, and Hillary Clinton will hope to build on that trend by brandishing her credentials as the first female presidential candidate for a major party.

However, Mrs Clinton currently has worse numbers among women than Bill Clinton did in his 1992 presidential race against George H W Bush. Bill Clinton won the female vote by 17 points; Clinton has a 13-point lead among women in a matchup against Donald Trump, according to Ipsos-Reuters. Barack Obama enjoyed a similar lead over Mitt Romney in 2012.

Mrs Clinton has struggled to win over younger women, who have strongly favoured Bernie Sanders during the Democratic primaries. By contrast, Mrs Clinton has fared better among older female voters. The question now is whether she can convince large numbers of voters from both those groups to turn out and support her as Mr Sanders’s run nears its end.

Women comprise the majority of US voters giving them decisive clout, said Chris Jackson of Ipsos Public Affairs. “A percentage point gain among women is a big deal.”

Younger voters

So far Mrs Clinton appears to have gone backwards with young Americans: she won fewer than 1m votes from people aged 17-29 in 25 of this year’s primaries, but secured 1.3m in the same contests in 2008, according to the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (Circle) at Tufts University.

Mr Sanders, meanwhile, won 2.5m votes from that group, exceeding the 2.3m that Barack Obama won in 2008. Worryingly for Mrs Clinton, one in four Sanders supporters said they would not back her, according to a McClatchy-Marist poll in April.

She nonetheless held a 55 per cent to 32 per cent edge over Mr Trump among people aged 18-34 in an NBC/Wall Street Journal poll in May. If she cannot win over the most ardent Sanders fans, it could hurt her in swing states where the youth vote has the greatest potential influence: Iowa, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Colorado.

Equally important is the behaviour of young Americans who have thus far stayed out the election.

“It’s really striking how few votes have been cast for other candidates. That’s why I say there is a lot of opportunity out there,” says Kei Kawashima-Ginsberg, Circle’s director. “There is a more ideologically-moderate youth that would have voted for Clinton, but they weren’t asked.”

Mr Trump also has a chance to rally more young people, especially those who have no more than a high school education and feel disempowered, she adds.

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2017. All rights reserved.
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