Even with more and more prominent Republicans actively supporting immigration reform, the party risks turning off even more Latino voters than in 2012 if conservative Republicans block immigration legislation this year, finds a new Latino Decisions/impreMedia poll. Forty one percent of registered Latino voters said they would have a more negative view of the Republican party if some Republicans worked to defeat the immigration bill, even if the party has made inroads with Hispanic voters and some Republicans have been supporting this legislation.
“The GOP gets no political boost for bipartisan support on the bill if Republicans sabotage it,” said Latino Decisions political scientist Matt Barreto, who discussed the poll’s findings.
The poll also found 39 percent of Latinos said their image of Republicans would remain the same, and 18 percent said it would be more favorable.
In recent weeks, some conservative lawmakers and commentators have argued that supporting immigration reform to gain more Latino voters should not be a concern for the GOP, since Hispanics are mainly progressive Democrats. Center for Immigration Studies’ Mark Krikorian, who strongly opposes the current Senate immigration reform bill, said recently in a radio show that “generally speaking, Hispanic voters are Democrats, and so the idea of importing more of them as a solution to the Republican Party’s problems is kind of silly.” Former Republican congressman Tom Tancredo said in an editorial that “amnesty” will not draw Hispanics to the GOP.
But comments like these are creating false arguments, said Barreto. ”While there is truth that Latinos are a more progressive constituency, the question is whether they will be tied to the Democratic party at 75 percent or whether the Republican party can return to 40 percent Latino support level in 2004,” he said. Republicans could have had a 15 to 17-point bump in their 2012 support if they would have led on the issue of immigration reform.
In a recent Latino Decisions poll, 52 percent of Hispanics said they have voted for a Republican candidate at some point, whether it was a local, state or national election, and 43 percent said they are more open to voting for a Republican if he or she supports immigration reform with a pathway to citizenship. In 2004, for example, George W. Bush won the majority of Latino evangelical voters, a group which strongly supports immigration reform. This same group, however, rejected Mitt Romney’s anti-immigration reform stance, and instead voted for Barack Obama in 2012.
“They (Republicans) don’t have to be destined to be losing 75 to 25 – that’s a false premise,” Barreto said.
Next Thursday, the Senate starts the process of debating and amending the Senate Gang of Eight’s immigration reform bill. Lynn Tramonte, from the pro-immigration reform organization America’s Voice, expressed optimism about Senate support in passing the bill.
“A lot of folks realize we have a pretty unique opportunity to fix a very complicated problem – that shouldn’t be taken lightly,” says Tramonte. Nonetheless, the bill is expected to generate strong debate on border security, a path to citizenship for the nation’s approximately 11 million undocumented citizens, and an expansion of visas.