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Panel of Florida and DC-Based Political Analysts and Immigrant Advocates Discuss the Politics of Immigration in the 2012 Elections

by Pili Tobar on 10/04/2012 at 6:17pm

Today, at a live streamed panel at the University of Miami’s College of Arts and Science’s GalleryWashington, DC and Florida-based political analysts, immigrant advocates, and community leaders discussed the politics of immigration and the Latino vote and assessed how Latino voters and the immigration issue will shape the Presidential, Senate and House races in Florida and beyond.  There, University of Miami Professor Casey Klofstad released fresh polling of Latino voters in Florida, conducted by Latino Decisions for America’s Voice.

This comes on the heels of a stunning statement on immigration policy from the Romney campaign.  After first declaring that a President Romney would not revoke work permits granted to DREAMers under the new Obama initiative, the Romney campaign later clarified that he would, in fact, end the program for future applicants.

According to Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice, “This poll shows that, once and for all, the old conventional wisdom on immigration politics is dead. Political strategists used to say that supporting common sense immigration reforms would alienate swing voters and that Latinos didn’t vote in strong enough numbers to compensate. But in Florida, that couldn’t be less true. President Obama’s deferred action announcement was good policy and this poll shows it was also good politics. He has energized Latino voters, while Governor Romney has now declared he will end this widely popular policy. Mitt Romney and Florida’s Republican candidates are taking these far right positions at their own peril.”

In key swing states like Florida and at the national level, Latino and new citizen voters are changing politics.  While they care about the same issues as all Americans, they have a unique and personal connection to the immigration debate that shapes their political views.  Today’spoll release shows exactly that.

Said Gary Segura, Co-Founder of Latino Decisions, “The Latino vote has grown and become much more diverse in Florida, and there is no doubt that Latino voters will decide how Florida breaks in the Presidential and U.S. Senate elections in 2012.  Candidates need to engage and mobilize the Latino vote if they want to win Florida.”

Among the poll’s findings:

Florida Latinos Favor Democrats by Wide Margins

  • In the presidential race, 61% of respondents said that they’re certain to or are thinking about voting for President Obama, 31% said that they’re certain to or are thinking about voting for Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, and 5% are undecided.
  • In the U.S. Senate race, 53% said that they’re certain to or are thinking about voting for incumbent Senator Bill Nelson (D), 32% said that they’re certain to or are thinking about voting for Rep. Connie Mack (R), and 15% are undecided.
  • When asked “(in) the now thinking about the upcoming elections for U.S. Congress in November, do you plan to vote for the Democratic candidate or the Republican candidate in your district?”  48% of respondents said they plan to vote for the Democratic candidate, while 28% said they plan to vote for the Republican candidate, and 16% are undecided or don’t know.

Florida Candidates’ Immigration Positions Matter to Latinos

  • Upon learning (after stating their candidate preference in the U.S. Senate race as reported above) of Rep. Connie Mack’s opposition to the DREAM Act and his support for building a border fence, 13% of respondents said they were “more enthusiastic” about Mack him while 54% said that they were “less enthusiastic” about him.
  • Upon learning (after stating their candidate preference in the U.S. Senate race as reported above ) of Sen. Bill Nelson’s support for the DREAM Act, 61% of respondents said that they felt “more enthusiastic” about Nelson, while 8% said that they felt “less enthusiastic.”

Immigration Debate at the National Level is Still Very Important

  • 25% of respondents said that immigration was “the most important issue” in their decision to vote in 2012 and 30% said it was “one of the most important issues.”
  • After hearing about President Obama’s deferred action policy, 53% of respondents said that they were “more enthusiastic” about voting for Obama, and 9% said they were “less enthusiastic.”  Meanwhile, after hearing about Mitt Romney’s statements on “self-deportation” and his support for Arizona’s SB 1070, only 11% of respondents said that they were “more enthusiastic” about voting for Romney, while 57% said they were “less enthusiastic.”
  • When asked “thinking ahead to the November 2012 presidential election, how enthusiastic are you about voting in the election next year?,” 70% of respondents said that they were “very enthusiastic” about voting in the upcoming election.  In a separate question that asked “would you say you are more enthusiastic about voting in 2012, or that you were more enthusiastic about voting back in 2008?” 57% said that they were “more enthusiastic” about voting in 2012 than they were about voting in 2008.

Florida’s Voter ID Law Weighs Heavy on the Minds of Latino Voters

When asked, “how concerned are you that people who are eligible to vote will be removed and block from voting?”  45% of respondents said “very concerned” and 24% said “somewhat concerned.”

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