Polls a growing number of Latinos are identifying themselves as Democrats than Republican. (Photo by David Becker/Getty Images)

Record participation of Latino voters expected in 2012, 8 percent already voted

Everyone agrees the importance of the Latino vote in this year’s close election all boils down to one thing: turnout.  While the conventional wisdom has been that Latinos are not as enthusiastic about the election as in 2008, this is not what a new impreMedia-Latino Decisions tracking poll has found.

“It looks like the “Sleeping Giant” has woken up,” stated Monica Lozano, CEO of impreMedia. “The poll shows that this year we can anticipate record participation among Latino voters.”

The new poll finds 87 percent of Hispanics say they are almost certain they will vote, including 8 percent of Latinos who have already cast their ballots through early voting.  “Eight percent of Latinos is about a million voters, that’s a pretty big deal,” says Gabriel Sanchez, a University of New Mexico political scientist.

What is more, the poll finds voter enthusiasm is going up — 45 percent of Hispanics say they are more enthusiastic about voting in this election than in 2008, and this number has increased in the last ten weeks, when the number was 37 percent. In 2008, 84 percent of registered Latinos voted, according to the Census.

Overall, President Obama is favored by 73 percent of all Latino registered voters, compared to 21 percent for Romney.  According to the poll, this 52-point gap matches the largest gap among Latinos this year, also found in the October 1 tracking poll. However, with a week (and a big storm in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic, to boot) left for the election, a good number of Latino voters are pessimistic about the candidates’ abilities to break through the Congressional impasse and logjam.

“The tracking data has consistently shown that Latino voters blame fighting in Congress as the reason the economy has not recovered, and on this issue over 40 percent think that regardless of who wins – Obama or Romney – neither candidate can bring cooperation to Washington D.C.,” stated Latino Decisions co-principal Matt Barreto.

Forty-five percent of Latino voters say a second Obama term would not improve cooperation in Congress, and 43 percent a Romney presidency would make no difference. When asked about the prospect of immigration reform, 52 percent of Latino registered voters think the chances of this are better under an Obama presidency, while 37 percent of Latino voters say even if Obama wins, the prospects for immigration reform will not change.

“In the final week of this campaign, the candidates need to connect with Latino voters and explain how they will somehow be able to break the impasse in Congress and get things done,” Barreto stated.

Both parties are hoping early voting benefits them.  In the battleground state of Nevada, a quarter of the votes were already cast by Friday.  Forty six percent of the votes were cast by registered Democrats and 36 percent by registered Republicans. In New Mexico, political scientist Gabriel Sanchez says “super voter centers” where any registered voter in that particular county can vote has greatly increased the number of Latinos participating in early voting.

“More and more voters are moving to early voting, and many states are pushing toward that,” says Sanchez. He says while early voting used to be something only “hardcore partisans” did, Dr. Sanchez says the barrage of campaign spending and ads following the Citizens United decision has motivated many voters to get it out of the way early, “so they can tune out the ads.”  The campaigns’ “ground game” has also focused on getting out the vote early, and both parties are hoping those who have not already cast their vote will certainly do November 6th.

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