A new report that we released yesterday examines – and demolishes – the claim that Republicans can maintain a hard line on immigration reform and still court the Latino vote simply by running Latino candidates. This has been a key theme espoused by Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX), one of our “three amigos” on immigration, and also the architect of the failed GOP immigration strategy to date. According to Smith:
“the 2010 election actually paints a very bright picture of the Republican Party’s relations with this country’s growing Hispanic population.”
The new report, Attention GOP: Latino Candidates Not Enough to Win Latino Vote, highlights several key findings from the 2010 elections with major implications for Republicans and the 2012 elections. Here they are:
- A candidate’s position on immigration matters far more to Latino voters than his or her ethnic background. In fact, many of the 2010 Latino Republican candidates ran on anti-immigrant platforms and performed poorly with Latino voters. Neither of the Latino Republicans elected to governorships in 2010—Nevada’s Brian Sandoval and New Mexico’s Susana Martinez—came close to winning a majority of the Latino vote.
- Latino voters see immigration as a personal and important issue when voting. In an election eve poll conducted by Latino Decisions in eight states, 83% of Latino voters said that immigration was an important issue in their voting decisions, and fully 60% said it was the most important issue or one of the most important issues. In February 2011 polling from Latino Decisions and impreMedia, 47% of Latino registered voters ranked immigration as the top priority for Congress and the President to address.
- Republican politicians are losing Latino voters because of the Party’s stance on immigration reform. After passing the notorious Sensenbrenner bill in 2005 and Arizona’s S.B. 1070 law in 2010, and blocking progress on comprehensive immigration reform and the DREAM Act for the better part of ten years, Republican policymakers are seen as increasingly hostile to the Latino community, and Latinos are increasingly trending Democratic. Latinos voted for the Democratic presidential nominee over the Republican by a margin of 59% to 40% in 2004 (Kerry-Bush) and 67% to 31% in 2008 (Obama-McCain). The swing was even more pronounced among foreign-born Latino voters, with 52% choosing Kerry in 2004 and 48% choosing Bush—while in 2008 75% chose Obama and 25% supported McCain. In 2010, a banner year for Republicans generally, Latinos supported Democrats over Republicans by 75%-25%, according to Latino Decisions.