Politicians like Steve King are certainly not what the Republican Party needs as it tries to make inroads with Latino voters.
According to the results of a new Latino Decisions/America’s Voice poll, ugly rhetoric like King’s comparison of DREAMers to drug mules hurts Republicans in battleground districts. The study, which looked at 800 Latino voters in 24 Republican-held battleground districts looked at how the handling of immigration reform could impact key 2014 races.
The poll found that Latino voters in those battleground districts are closely tracking the immigration debate. An estimated 86 percent of midterm voters have read about or heard about reform in the news. The topic continues to be the most important issue that Latino voters want Washington to address. Nearly 6 in 10 voters consider immigration one of the most important issues facing the Latino community and 3 in 4 find it extremely important for either Congress or the President to take up this year.
But legislators like Steve King or Louie Gohmert are tarnishing the Republican brand in the eyes of Latino voters. Hispanic voters who were polled were read negative comments, had a less favorable view of the GOP. But when read positive comments from Republicans like Paul Ryan and Spencer Bachus, Latinos‘ opinions of the Party improved dramatically.
In these districts, 70 percent of Latino midterm voters disapprove of the job Republicans in Congress are doing handling immigration policy. Just 20 percent approve.
“I think the message for Republicans is very clear: half-hearted measures are not going to solve the electoral problem that they face,” said Gary Segura, Professor of American Politics and Chair of Chicano/a Studies at Stanford University and Principal at Latino Decisions. “In these 24 House districts, which are competitive, where the Latino populations are growing, where the margins of victory are small, there is in fact a potential loss for Republicans at the House level if they fail to act. And half-measures are not going to work, like DREAM-lite, or no citizenship or second class status, those things are not going to solve the problem.”
The results of the Latino Decisions/America’s Voice poll come on the heels of controversial comments made by Rep. King. In an interview with the conservative web site Newsmax, King expressed skepticism about providing a path to citizenship for DREAMers, saying not all of them are valedictorians.
“For everyone who’s a valedictorian, there’s another 100 out there that weigh 130 pounds and they’ve got calves the size of cantaloupes because they’re hauling 75 pounds of marijuana across the desert,” King added. “Those people would be legalized with the same act.”
Interestingly enough, immigration reform and support for a pathway to citizenship is quite popular with voters in King’s own district. A separate poll by the center-right American Action Network finds that 68 percent of voters in Iowa’s congressional district support an earned pathway to legal status for undocumented immigrants. And an estimated 70 percent of Republican voters in King’s district support a pathway.