Florida's Puerto Ricans strongly favor Clinton: poll

October 5, 2016 1:01 PM EDT

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By Luciana Lopez

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Florida's rapidly growing Puerto Rican population heavily favors Democrat Hillary Clinton over Republican Donald Trump in the U.S. presidential race, according to a poll released on Wednesday by groups with links to the Democrats.

Seventy-four percent of Puerto Ricans now registered to vote in Florida said they would likely pick Clinton in the Nov. 8 election, versus 17 percent for Trump, according to the poll from the Center for American Progress Action Fund and Latino Decisions.

Puerto Ricans, who traditionally lean toward voting Democratic in Florida, are a big enough group to swing the closely-fought state.

Florida, the third-largest state in the country in terms of electoral college votes needed to win the White House, has seen an influx of people from Puerto Rico, a U.S. territory, as the Caribbean island's economy has floundered in recent years.

More than one million Puerto Ricans now live in Florida, according to the Pew Research Center, making up about 5 percent of the total population.

The Center for American Progress Action Fund is a progressive non-partisan organization that has been critical of Trump in the past. Latino Decisions has consulted for the Clinton campaign.

Florida is currently too close to call between Clinton and Trump, according to the Reuters/Ipsos States of the Nation project, and both candidates have been focusing their campaigns there heading into the election.

Trump angered many Hispanics when he launched his campaign last year by calling some Mexican immigrants rapists and drug dealers, and his hardline immigration policies have done little to attract Latino voters.

The poll did not gauge the level of eligible Puerto Rican voters who have registered in Florida, an important measure given historically low Latino turnout. Latino voter registration lagged white and African-American voters in the 2014 congressional elections by 12 to 15 percentage points nationally, according to the U.S. Census.

But it said Puerto Rican voters now registered in Florida appeared motivated. Some 84 percent said they would definitely vote, with another 14 percent saying they would probably do so. Only 2 percent said they definitely would not.

The poll included 504 registered Puerto Rican voters in Florida with a margin of error of plus or minus 4.4 percentage points. It was conducted from Sept. 17 to Sept. 26.

(Reporting by Luciana Lopez; Editing by Richard Valdmanis and Alistair Bell)

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