Yesterday, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest told reporters that President Obama delayed executive action on immigration until after the election because he didn’t want the former to be a “casualty” of the latter.
“The concern is that, had the president moved forward with his announcement prior to Election Day, you would have seen Republican candidates do more to make the immigration issue central to their campaign,” Earnest said. “And in the event that they were successful in their campaign, the concern would be that they would cite their opposition to immigration reform as a reason for their success.”
Well, Republicans in a number of states are running on immigration reform anyway. And a new analysis from David Damore of Latino Decisions shows that Obama’s lack of action on reform may be what’s hurting Democrats.
There’s a wide enthusiasm gap on the issue between Latino and non-Latino voters. For non-Latinos, immigration as an issue tends to not affect their vote either way. But for Latinos, a key voting bloc, immigration is a key topic:
In a recent New York Times/CBS Poll, 10 percent of respondents indicated that immigration was the most important issue shaping their vote for Congress (14 percent indicated it was the second most important issue) and over two-thirds supported allowing unauthorized immigrants to stay in the country, 54 percent supported a pathway to citizenship, and 51 percent supported executive action. At the same time when asked if they would be more or less likely to vote for congressional candidates who support a pathway to citizenship 30 percent said this would make them more likely, 39 percent indicated it would make them less likely, and 26 percent responded it would make no difference.
In contrast, for most Latinos immigration reform is the animating issue. A June poll conducted by Latino Decisions for the American Progress Fund suggests that enthusiasm for voting among Latinos would decrease by 54 percent and their support for Democratic candidates would decrease by 57 percent if executive action were not taken before the election. Although these data are from a national sample and may not project to particular state contexts, they suggest the centrality of immigration to the political participation of Latino voters.
As for the second assumption, clearly Colorado is the state where any decrease in Latino turnout hurts the Democrats’ prospects. To examine this potential, Table 2 presents the partisanship of registered Colorado Latinos, sorted by their probability of voting as estimated by Latino Decisions and L2’s micro-targeting models. While 72 percent of Colorado Latinos are likely Democratic voters, just 45 percent have a high probability of voting in November. What about the Latino voters who favor the Democrats or are persuadable, but have lower probabilities of voting (the blue-shaded cells)? If these voters were mobilized in response to executive action, then the pool of potential Latinos voting Democratically would more than double. Absent executive action, there may be little incentive for these voters to participate in November.
At the other end of the spectrum is Arkansas; a state with a fraction of the number of registered Latinos as Colorado (see Table 3). Note that roughly half of Arkansas Latinos are independents. As a consequence, less than 20 percent of the Latino electorate has a high probability of voting Democratic — a number that could be potentially increased twofold if Latino voters in the blue cells were mobilized.
Although North Carolina (Table 4) is home to a growing Latino voting population, just 10 percent of these voters have a high probability of voting Democratic in November — a total that is close to the share of Latinos who are predicted to vote Republican. To be sure, there are significantly more Democratic leaning or persuadable Latino voters (the blue cells) than Republicans in North Carolina. The lack of executive action coupled with Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan’s statements urging Obama not to act may give these voters little reason to participate in November.