President Barack Obama has his largest lead in the NBC News/Wall Street Journal/Telemundo oversample of Hispanic voters – 50 points.
Obama now leads Republican challenger Mitt Romney 70 to 20 percent with Latino registered voters and an equal margin, 71 to 21 percent, among likely voters. That is an increase of 15 points from August and outpaces Obama’s 2008 split of 67 to 31 percent over John McCain.
Republican pollster Bill McInturff, who conducted the poll with Democratic pollster Peter D. Hart, calls the 70 percent figure a “significant” and “cautionary note” to Romney and the Republican Party, suggesting that losing the Latino vote by that margin would be difficult to overcome.
It appears that Romney’s “47 percent” comments took a toll on his standing with Hispanics.
Romney’s favorability score has cratered with the group, with his negatives hitting an all-time high. Fifty-three percent now say they have a negative impression of Romney and just 23 percent say they have a positive one. That 30-point difference is 17 points worse than in August.
What’s more, 61 percent of Latinos say what they’ve heard about Romney in past couple of weeks has given them a less favorable impression of him. That’s 20 points worse than when same question was asked in July.
An equal number (61 percent) say they would be uncomfortable with Romney as president. And almost four-in-10 (38 percent) say they would be “not at all” comfortable with Romney sitting in the White House.
By contrast, President Obama enjoys a sky-high 74 to 17 percent favorability rating, an all-time high. He holds a similarly strong approval rating of 73 percent – also an all-time high. That’s up 11 points from August.
Specifically on the “47 percent” comments, a majority of Latinos (55 percent) said they gave them a more negative impression now of Romney than before he made them.
During the surreptitiously recorded video of Romney at a fundraiser, he said 47 percent of the country, who didn’t pay income tax, were “victims” who would never vote for him. But he also said talked about his father being born in Mexico to American parents and joked about what a political advantage it would be if he were actually of Mexican descent.
“Had he been born of Mexican parents,” Romney said of his father, “I’d have a better shot of winning this, but he was unfortunately born of Americans living in Mexico. They’d lived there for a number of years. And– I mean I say that jokingly, but it’d be helpful to be Latino.”
Romney also acknowledged that he and the GOP are having difficulty winning over Latinos – a problem that could hobble the party.
“We’re having a much harder time with Hispanic voters,” he said. “And if the Hispanic voting bloc becomes as committed to the Democrats as the African-American voting bloc has in the past, why we’re– we’re in trouble as a party and, I think, as a nation.”
The 47 percent comments also showed up when Latino respondents were asked what hesitations they had about the candidates.
“His 47% of Americans speech,” said a self-declared 35-44 year-old Hispanic male from Texas.
“I disagree with his comment about 47% of Americans,” said another 18-24 Hispanic male from Arizona.
“That 47% are dependent on the government, even though we work,” said a 35-44 Hispanic male from California.
“I feel like he’s disconnected from the rest of us,” said a 25-34 year-old Hispanic woman from Texas. “He’s led a privileged life. Not everybody has had that.”
Others said they feared Romney would favor the wealthy and give tax cuts at the expense of things like education. “They wouldn’t be able to keep enough teachers hired,” said an 18-24-year-old male from California.
By contrast, when asked about Obama’s “you didn’t build that” remarks — which the Romney campaign has used against the president to paint him as anti-business – 56 percent said the comments gave them a more favorable impression of the incumbent president.
Preferring Obama on the issues
Latino voters also favor Obama by big margins on every issue – from immigration, health care, and Medicare to foreign policy, China, taxes, the economy, and the budget deficit.
On immigration, for example, Latinos say Obama would be better than Romney by a 66 to 14 margin, up from the 55 to 16 advantage Obama had in July.
Optimism on the rise
Another overarching factor fueling the president’s rise is, like in polling of other groups, that Latino optimism has increased. A majority now say the country is headed in the right direction (55 percent), up 12 points from a month ago.
A majority (50 percent), for the first time in the oversample, also say the economy will get better in the next year.
Enthusiasm ticks up, but still off from 2008 levels
With Hispanics favoring Obama by such wide margins, the key for his reelection team will be getting them to show up at the polls in the numbers the president needs. Latino intensity was down through the summer months, but there was a significant uptick in this poll.
Last month, just 61 percent of Hispanics said they were either an 8, 9, or 10 when it came to how interested they were in this election. But now 77 percent say so.
There was a 10-point jump among those saying they are 9s or 10s, the highest-interest group, with 59 percent saying so.
Still, those numbers lag behind other groups and behind where Hispanics were at this time in 2008. In September 2008, 88 percent said they were at least an 8. And 76 percent said they were at least a 9.