“It was okay, it was a good start.” This phrase could very well sum up Latino voters’ reaction to the very high-profile inclusion of Hispanics during primetime speeches and events at the Republican and Democratic conventions. According to impreMedia/Latino Decisions weekly tracking polls after both conventions, while the majority of Hispanic voters said the prominent participation of Hispanic leaders at both events would not sway their vote, those who were influenced by the inclusion of Latino leaders had quite positive reactions.
But even after the conventions, the parties still have a lot of work to do to attract Hispanic voters — especially the Republican party. According to a September 10 impreMedia/Latino Decisions poll which asked Hispanic voters their opinions on the parties’ outreach efforts, 47 percent of Hispanic voters said the Republicans “don’t care” about Latinos, and 20 percent said the Republicans were being “hostile” toward Hispanics. Only 19 percent of those polled thought Republicans were doing a good job reaching Latinos.
Regarding their views on Democratic outreach to Latinos, 49 percent of registered Hispanic voters though the Democratic party was doing a good job, 30 percent agreed the party does not care about Latinos, and 6 percent thought the Democrats were hostile to Hispanics. Moreover, the poll found Latino voters were still more enthusiastic at this time in 2008 than in 2012.
“While it’s clear the Republicans have far more work to do on mending their image with Latinos, the Democrats also need to increase their efforts and not take the Latino vote for granted,” said Latino Decisions principal Matt Barreto.
So what did Hispanic voters think of high-profile Latino participation at the two conventions?
At the Republican convention in Tampa, Florida, two Republican Hispanic governors, Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval and New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez gave primetime speeches, and Florida Senator Marco Rubio had a very prominent speaking role, as he introduced Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney before his acceptance speech. Texas Tea Party Republican Senate candidate Ted Cruz also spoke.
Following the convention, the impreMedia/Latino Decisions weekly tracking poll found 62 percent of Hispanic voters said Martinez’ and Rubio’s participation had no effect on how they viewed Republicans. But in what Latino Decisions’ political scientist Matt Barreto described as “encouraging” for Republicans, 38 percent of Latino independents said they had a more favorable impression of Republicans following the Martinez/Rubio participation while only 8 percent said it gave them a less favorable impression — a 30+ margin. A tracking poll found Mitt Romney had gained favorability among Latinos following the convention.
At the Democratic convention in Charlotte, North Carolina, San Antonio, Texas Mayor Julian Castro gave the Democratic convention’s first-ever Latino keynote speech, and there were speeches by Latino legislators such as Luis Gutierrez, Nydia Velazquez and Xavier Becerra. Antonio Villaraigosa, Mayor of Los Angeles, chaired the Democratic National Convention and spoke several times on the stage. Fifty-four percent of Latino voters said the inclusion of Castro and Villaraigosa had no influence on their view of Democrats, while 35 percent said it made them more favorable toward Democrats and 4 percent make them less favorably inclined. Latino independents were less impressed with the participation of Latino speakers at the Democratic convention; only 26 percent said they had a more favorable impression and 5 percent a less favorable impression.
Latino Decisions’ Matt Barreto said both parties earned positive marks for their efforts at Latino inclusion and outreach. Dr. Barreto also says, however, that Latino enthusiasm and voter turnout will be critical in November. “Even small fluctuations in projected Latino turnout causes states like Colorado and Virginia to oscillate between Romney and Obama,” saying low Latino turnout in Nevada could make President Obama lose the state, and Republican gains in Florida among Latinos could tip the state to Romney.
Both campaigns are spending much time in battleground states such as Florida, Nevada and Ohio as the countdown continues to November.