MIAMI (CBSMiami) – The fastest growing segment of the electorate has made its voice heard in the Florida governor’s race.
In a new poll targeting Hispanics, the demographic is backing Democratic candidate Charlie Crist with a whopping 53 percent. Incumbent Gov. Rick Scott received a measly 29 percent from Hispanics surveyed.READ MORE: 'That's Past History': Ponzi Scheme Victim Norman Braman On Death Of Bernie Madoff
The poll was released as the two candidates squared off at the Spanish-language network Telemundo for their first of three debates.
Experts believe the disparity stems from Scott’s stance on immigration, Medicaid and the minimum wage.
Though there are concerns Hispanics will stay home this election, Latino Decisions polling firm feels they could be a force at the polls for Crist.
“There has been a lot of rumbling from pundits that Latino voters will stay home this year because they are demoralized by the lack of progress on immigration reform,” Loren McArthur, deputy director of civic engagement for National Council of La Raza, told CBS4’s news partner the Miami Herald.
National Council of La Raza is a liberal-leaning Hispanic-advocacy group that paid for the survey of 600 registered Hispanic voters.
“Nearly eight times as many Latino voters say turnout is more important than ever this year,” McArthur added.
At 22 percent, immigration is the second-most important issue behind fixing the economy, which is at 24 percent. The poll’s margin of error is four percent.
Hispanics tend to be poorer, less-insured and more eligible for Medicaid than non-Hispanic whites.READ MORE: Florida Lawyer Who Dressed As Grim Reaper Seeks To Scuttle Disciplinary Case
That’s why issues such as Medicaid and the minimum wage are particularly important among Hispanics.
A third of Hispanics polled said either they or a family member had been uninsured in the past year and about half of respondents said they knew someone who is sick and lacks health insurance.
Scott initially called for Medicaid expansion under Obamacare but backed off. Crist, who originally criticized Obamacare, now supports it and considers it major campaign issue.
If Medicaid is fully expanded in the state, it would cover nearly 200,000 Hispanics.
The two candidates don’t seem to agree on is minimum wage either.
Scott once said the issue made him “cringe” whereas Crist vowed to fight for minimum wage. Voter sentiment appealed to Crist’s views as he was favored 64-15 percent.
“Republicans haven’t done any real bridge-building,” said Latino Decisions pollster Sylvia Manzano. “And on many important issues, there’s just distance between what Latino voters would prefer and what Scott’s positions are.”
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