While the economy and jobs are consistently ranked as the top issues in the minds of Latino voters, a recent Latino Decisions poll, commissioned by the immigration group America’s Voice and the progressive Center for American Progress Action Fund found how a candidate is perceived on immigration issues does affect Latino support – as well as increased or decreased enthusiasm – for the candidate.
An interesting finding was that 51 percent of Latinos did not know President Obama’s stance on SB1070 (he opposes it), and 60 percent of Latinos did not know Romney’s views on SB1070 (he favors it).
Yet when Latinos do know, the poll found an association between immigration issues and presidential choices, according to Latino Decisions political scientist Matt Barreto.
For example, fifty-seven percent of Hispanics polled said knowing Romney favors SB1070 makes them less enthusiastic to vote for him. The number is higher (63 percent) for Spanish-speaking Latinos and lower (53percent) for English-dominant Latinos.
For Obama, it is the opposite – he gains support among Hispanics when they know he opposed SB1070.
While the poll found Romney only had 22 percent of the Latino vote, the Latino voters who favor Romney were actually more enthusiastic (67 percent were “very enthusiastic” about Romney) than the voters who favor Obama (58 percent were “very enthusiastic” about Obama). Yet among Latinos who knew Obama fought against SB1070 in the courts, 68 percent of Latino voters said they were “very enthusiastic” versus 45 percent who did not know the President’s position – a difference of 23 points.
“This paints a picture that immigration-related issues are a defining, mobilizing issue,” said Frank Sharry, from America’s Voice, in today’s discussion on the poll.
The national poll surveyed a representative cross-section of Latinos. It found 66 percent of them did not agree with the Arizona law, which requires police to check the immigration status of a person who has been stopped if there is suspicion the person might be undocumented. Only 29 percent of Hispanics support it.
A solid majority of Latinos polled – 79 percent – overwhelmingly think Latinos who are legal immigrants or U.S. citizens would be stopped or questioned by police due to the Arizona law. This does not dip that much after several generations; 74 percent of first generation, 89 percent of second generation, and 75 percent of third generation Hispanics think police would stop U.S. citizens as well as legal immigrants.
Moreover, a large number of Hispanics disagree with the statement “allowing police to check immigration status will increase safety in my community. Seventy percent of registered Latinos across the country disagree. The feeling is shared by first and second generation Hispanics (71 and 73 percent, respectively), and 66 percent of third-generation Latinos.
Sixty three percent of Hispanics thought Barack Obama would do a better job handling immigration issues, and 19 percent thought Mitt Romney would.
Support for immigration reform as well as for Dreamers, however, is not solely a “Latino issue,” as the poll shows. A Bloomberg June 2012 poll found 64 percent of Americans support “Dreamers,” and 84 percent of Americans in a May 2012 National Journal poll expressed support for the Dream Act. This, says immigration advocate Frank Sharry, shows immigration is not just a “Hispanic issue.”
“A few years ago, it was accepted – that immigration was a ‘loser’ issue,” said Sharry, saying that the conventional wisdom in previous elections was that immigration issues would mobilize conservative voters and not appeal to independent voters. Now, he says, “independent voters are more favorable to pragmatic immigration solutions.”