A new NBC/WSJ/Telemundo poll finds Barack Obama with a strong lead over Mitt Romney. (Photo/Win McNamee/Getty Images)

NBC/WSJ/Telemundo poll: Obama holds strong lead, Romney has ‘image problem’ with Latinos

BOCA RATON, Fl – As the candidates get ready for their final debate tonight here in Florida, a new NBC/WSJ/Telemundo poll finds Barack Obama leads Mitt Romney by 45 points among Latino voters – 70 percent to 25 percent among likely voters, and pretty much the same with registered voters, 69 to 23 percent.  “Despite a tightened presidential race among the wider electorate – Hispanics continue to say they prefer President Obama by wide margins,” says Domenico Montanaro, NBC News Deputy Political Editor.

A crucial issue for Mitt Romney, according to the poll results, is that Romney “continues to have a severe image problem with Hispanics,” according to Montanaro.  Forty five percent of Latinos have a “very negative” view of Governor Romney, up from 35 percent last month.  A solid majority, 57 percent, have a negative view of Romney.

The NBC/WSJ/Telemundo poll finds President Obama has strong approval ratings, but they have dropped – from 73 percent last month to 66 percent. On how President Obama is handling the economy, the President’s approval declined slightly to 61 percent from 66, and on favorability, Obama is now at 69 percent favorable from 74 percent last month.

Did the previous debates help ‘move the needle’ for the candidates?  Fourteen percent of Latinos polled say they are more likely to vote for Romney after the debates; 48 percent say it made them more likely to vote for Obama, while 35 percent say it made no difference.

On the question of Latino enthusiasm for the election, it has gone up slightly since last month, according to the NBC/WSJ/Telemundo poll.  Sixty eight percent of Latinos say they are a ‘9 or 10’ on the enthusiasm scale, up from 59 percent last month, though this is still down from the 76 percent of Latinos four years ago who said the same at this time. Latinos are also lagging behind the general electorate, there 76 percent they are a ‘nine or ten.’

An impreMedia-Latino Decisions poll released today, though, finds Latino voters are ‘highly engaged’  in the election, and 56 percent of Latinos say they are ‘very enthusiastic’ about the election, up from 51 percent last week.  In fact, within the 45-65 age group, this poll finds 89 percent are certain to vote, and 68 percent say they are very enthusiastic.  Moreover, almost six out of ten Latinos in this age group say they are certain to vote, and almost 30 percent have volunteered for a campaign or worked on voter registration. The poll also found support for President Obama is up. Seventy one percent of respondents were certain or likely to vote for Obama, compared to 67 percent last week, according to the results.

Monica Lozano, of impreMedia, says Mitt Romney now stands at 20 percent in the new impreMedia/Latino Decisions poll. Though the general polls have Romney and Obama neck and neck, Lozano said if the national polls are not accurately polling and counting Latinos,  which will comprise about 10 percent of the voters, “they may be overstating Romney’s numbers by 2 or 3 points,” Lozano said.

Here in Florida, a new Scripps/WPTV poll has Romney ahead by one point, 48 percent to Obama’s 47 percent, and this Florida poll has Romney ahead among Hispanics, 49 to 46 percent.  The pollsters attribute these higher Romney Latino numbers to the state’s Cuban-American population, which according to the poll favors Romney. But Casey Klofstad, associate professor of political science at the University of Miami, says “the Cuban-American population in South Florida skews Republican, but my guess is that the Latino vote in Florida will break more for Obama and Obama will win the Latino vote in Florida, though there is a tightening of the margin,” says Klofstad.

“Polls bounce up and down,” adds Kloftstad, “but in the end, the Latino vote is really going to hinge on turnout,” he says.

Th NBC News/WSJ/Telemundo poll finds thirteen percent of the Latinos polled say they have already voted early, and another 10 percent say they plan to vote before Election Day.

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