President Barack Obama continues to lead presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney by wide margins with Latinos, according to the latest NBC News-Wall Street Journal-Telemundo poll.
Hispanics, the largest-growing segment of the U.S. population, said they preferred Obama over Romney in the presidential race, 63 to 28 percent. That margin has been relatively consistent since May when the poll started including additional Latino interviews.
By every measure and every issue – from foreign policy to immigration, the economy to taxes – Hispanic registered voters said they preferred Obama by wide margins. But there continues to be a warning sign for the president’s reelection campaign: Latinos are among the least enthusiastic voting groups in the country.
“The president continues to perform strongly among Latinos, but his campaign continues to face the challenge of engaging interest and turn-out,” said Bill McInturff, the Republican pollster who conducted the poll with Democratic pollster Peter D. Hart. “As we head into the conventions, the evidence suggests Latino voters continues to lag behind in terms of their self-described interest in this election.”
Despite President Obama’s June immigration announcement – which halted the deportation of illegal immigrants younger than 30 and who were brought to the United States as children – there has not been an uptick in Latino enthusiasm. That policy took effect Wednesday, but Latino interest in this election is at its lowest point in the NBC-WSJ-Telemundo poll.
Asked how interested they are in this election on a scale of 1 to 10, just 61 percent said they were at least an 8. That’s 20 points below the average of 81 percent of all voters who said so and significant drop offs from 2008 levels. In July 2008, 80 percent of Hispanics said they were an 8, 9, or 10.
In fact, in this poll, one-in-10 Latinos (10 percent) declared themselves just a “1”, “not at all interested” in this election. That’s the highest level recorded this cycle. That was not seen in 2008.
Less than half (49 percent) of Hispanics count themselves among the highest-interest voters — 9s and 10s. That’s among the lowest of all voting groups.
They are similar, but below even the interest level of young voters, age 18-34. Fifty-two percent of young voters say they are 9s or 10s. Both should be red flags for the Obama campaign, as both young voters and Latinos are pillars to the president’s reelection hopes.
They voted well below those population figures in 2008, however, making up just 9 percent of all voters.
But because of those demographics, even if intensity is down, they will still make up a significant chunk of the electorate that cannot be ignored, McInturff said.
“We don’t know the percentage of the electorate that is going to be Latino — one could argue it might be as low as 7 percent or as high as 10 percent,” McInturff said, “but, even if it drops from 2008 levels down to 8 percent, among likely Latino voters, the president is up by 40 points. That’s a margin Gov. Romney has to narrow or he is placing a lot of pressure to perform exceptionally well among white voters to win the campaign.”
Romney VP pick doesn’t move Latinos
If Romney was hoping to move Hispanic voters with his vice-presidential pick, he didn’t do it with Paul Ryan.
A majority (54 percent) said the pick of the Wisconsin congressman will not affect their vote; 28 percent said it makes them less likely to vote for Romney; just 15 percent said it makes them more likely to do so.
Further, almost half (44 percent) say Ryan is “out of step,” as compared to just a third who say he’s “in the mainstream.”
On Medicare, a key issue involving Ryan’s controversial budget plan, a majority of Hispanics believe the program needs to be reformed, but almost six-in-10 Hispanic side with President Obama over the alternative posed by Romney-Ryan.
Fifty-seven percent said they agreed more with the president’s argument that Medicare “is a bad idea because it would end Medicare as we know it by turning it into a voucher system giving seniors a set amount of money to pay for their health care costs and leaving them to personally cover costs above this amount.”
There were Latino Republicans in consideration for Romney’s vice-presidential slot, including Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez. Both will speak at the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla.
The live-caller telephone survey of 300 Hispanic registered voters was conducted from Aug. 16 to 20 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 5.7 percent.