(MIAMI – OCTOBER 18: People listen during a get out the vote rally put on by local unions and Democratic politicians on the grounds of the Jackson Memorial hospital on October 18, 2010 in Miami, Florida. Today, Florida residents headed to the polls to cast votes on the first day of early voting. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images))

Latinos favor Obama, but not a Romney-Rubio ticket

A day after the Obama campaign announced their “Latinos for Obama” effort, a new Quinnipiac poll shows the President has a big lead over Republican Mitt Romney among Latinos. And when it comes to a Latino Republican Vice Presidential running mate, over half of Hispanics polled have not formed an opinion on Florida Senator Marco Rubio or New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez.

Among Latinos, President Barack Obama has a significant lead over Romney, 64 percent to 24 percent. Twenty-four percent of Latinos had a favorable opinion of Romney, 40 percent had an unfavorable opinion, and 35 percent said they had not heard enough about him.  Fifty-eight percent of Hispanics had a favorable opinion of Obama, 33 percent had an unfavorable opinion, and 4 percent had not heard enough about him.

Hispanics said President Obama would do a better job on the economy than former Governor Romney, 51 percent to 31 percent.  And on job creation, 53 percent of Latinos thought Obama would do a better job versus 29 percent for Romney.

On leadership qualities, Latinos preferred Obama to Romney by 68 to 29 percent.

“At first blush, the high numbers for President Obama might be surprising because the economy is not recovering at the pace people would like and Obama has a mixed record on immigration,” says René Rocha, an assistant professor of political science at the University of Iowa.

“On the other hand,” Rocha adds, “Romney’s association with ‘anti-immigrant’ policies, which are seen by Latinos as ‘anti-Latino,’ has hurt Romney and the Republicans.

Even among Latinos not directly affected by immigration policies, the Latino political scientist explains that negative views on immigration laws in Arizona and  Alabama have made Latinos more ‘cohesive’ politically, and more likely to see Romney and Republicans as not concerned with people “like them,’” Rocha says.

The poll asked Latinos their views on certain potential Republican Vice Presidential running mates. When Latinos were asked whether Florida Republican Senator Marco Rubio would be a good choice for Vice President under Mitt Romney, 30 percent of Hispanics said it would be a good choice, 16 percent thought it was a bad choice, and 51 percent of Latinos had no opinion on the matter.

The same question was posed of New Mexico Republican Governor Susana Martínez.  Twenty-two percent of Latinos thought Martínez would be a good Vice Presidential choice, 20 percent thought she would be a bad choice, and over half – 54 percent – had no opinion on the matter.

Betina Cutaia Wilkinson, assistant professor of political science at Wake Forest University, says the high “no opinion” numbers are not surprising.

“Latinos nationwide may not know Rubio and especially Martínez’ ideology or background, so they are more likely to say ‘I don’t know’ or that they don’t have an opinion,” says the Latina political scientist.

This, however, might not necessarily be a bad thing for Republicans trying to introduce a Latino candidate, she adds.

“Latinos are less likely to vote for a candidate who is associated with views or legislation viewed as anti-immigrant and anti-Latino,” Wilkinson adds.

Wilkinson and Rocha believe that a conservative Latino vice presidential candidate would not have great appeal to the majority of Latinos.

“If Romney wants to win the Latino vote, he should just soften his stance on immigration,” says Rocha. “The types of Latinos most likely to be persuaded to vote for a candidate on the basis of ethnicity are ideologically less likely to support conservative principles, and thus a Republican candidate.”

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