With Mitt Romney’s resounding victory in Florida’s Republican primary yesterday, bolstered by 54% support from Latino voters, it is important to put Romney’s victory in context. What does it mean for the general election competition for the Latino vote, in Florida and beyond? Below are 10 numbers that provide that context:
- 2008 – The 2008 elections illustrate the limited predictive value of Florida’s Republican primary – both among Latino voters and overall. Bolstered by 54% support from Latino Republican primary voters, John McCain won the 2008 Florida Republican primary. However, Barack Obama won majority support from Florida Latinos in the general election, 57%-42% over McCain, helping to deliver Florida’s electoral votes to President Obama. In 2012, Romney won the same percentage of Latino votes in the Republican primary that McCain did, but is currently polling behind Obama among Latinos in the state. Per Univision-ABC-Latino Decisions, President Obama is currently polling ahead of Mitt Romney among Florida Latino voters by a 50%-40% margin.
- 3% – Only 3% of Florida Republican primary voters listed “illegal immigration” as their top voting issue in yesterday’s Florida exit polling. The same was true in other early voting states such as Iowa. As we look toward the general election, it remains true that Latino voters are the sole voter group for whom immigration is a defining, voting issue – and that Latino voters are adamantly opposed to Romney’s hardline immigration policies.
- 64% – The percentage of 2012 Republican primary voters in Florida exit polling who believe that the “best policy toward illegal immigrants” does not involve deportation. A plurality of respondents (38%) stated, “apply for citizenship” and an additional 27% supported “stay as temporary workers.” Meanwhile, only 30% of Florida Republican primary voters supported “deport,” the policy approach that most closely mirrors Romney’s. Romney’s hardline stance continues to make little political sense given the overwhelming favor for non-deportation options even among Republicans, and the salience of this issue for Latinos.
- 32% – As many have recently noted, Cuban-American voters are more Republican and less animated by immigration issues than other Latino voter demographic groups, both in Florida and across the country. Additionally, Florida’s Latino electorate is diversifying, as today Cuban-American voters only comprise 32% of all registered Latino voters in Florida’s electorate.
- 112,000 – As Florida’s Latino electorate diversifies, it is growing more Democratic. Currently, there are approximately 112,000 more registered Latino Democratic voters in Florida than registered Latino Republican voters. Even Cuban-Americans are growing more Democratic, especially among the U.S.-born second generation.
- 36% vs. 49% – In the latest Univision-ABC-Latino Decisions poll, 36% of Cuban-American voters labeled immigration as the most important issue facing the Latino community for Congress and the President to address, compared with half of Mexican-American voters in the poll. As Victoria DeFrancesco Soto of Latino Decisions explains, Cuban-Americans “simply are not as personally affected by the issue as Mexican immigrants.”
- 31 – The combined Electoral Vote total provided by the Latino-vote heavy – and Mexican-American vote-heavy – swing states of Arizona (11 EV), Colorado (9 EV), Nevada (6 EV), and New Mexico (5 EV). Add in Florida (29 EV), whose Latino voter population is split three ways among Cubans, Puerto Ricans and other Latinos more directly affected by immigration, and the total climbs to 60 Electoral Votes up for grabs in major Latino swing states.