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For Protestant Latino Voters, Immigration is Key

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A recent poll entitled, “National Survey of Latino
Protestants: Immigration and the 2008 Election,” charts the latest attitudes of
Latino Evangelical registered voters, a significant part of the Latino
electorate in Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada, and Florida. The poll is sponsored by the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, in partnership with the Jesse Miranda Center for Hispanic Leadership, Faith in Public Life, and Gaston Espinosa, Ph.D., Claremont McKenna College. It sheds light on what’s
driving Latino voters in these battleground states, and shows just how large a
role immigration is playing in determining Latino Evangelicals’ political

Despite its conspicuous absence during last night’s presidential
debates, immigration remains one of the most significant issues mobilizing and
energizing the growing Latino and immigrant vote, and new evidence is showing
that, for Latino Evangelicals, the issue ranks on par with abortion and higher
than gay marriage.

Evangelicals are one of the fastest
growing segments of the Latino community. In 2004, they represented about
one-third of the Hispanic electorate (up from one-quarter in 2000), and 63
percent voted for Bush-the first time on record that a Republican presidential
candidate won the Latino evangelical vote. In fact, according to the Pew
Hispanic Center, the group accounted almost entirely for Bush’s increased share
of the overall Hispanic vote, which grew from about 35 percent in 2000 to
roughly 40 percent in 2004. 

According to the poll:

82.8 percent [of Latino Evangelicals] say a candidate’s
position on immigration is important in determining their vote this year (54.6
percent say very important).

This survey finds that Latino
Protestants have shifted their support to the Democratic presidential candidate
by a wide margin in 2008 and immigration is a key factor in influencing their
vote. However, Latino Protestants are as likely to associate negative rhetoric
on immigration with both parties as they are with only Republicans – indicating
that Democrats have not distinguished themselves as champions for immigration

Last week America’s
also released a new report entitled, The Power
of the Immigrant and Latino Vote in the 2008 Election.”  The
analysis highlighted the crucial impact Latino voters are likely to have on the
2008 Presidential election and key House and Senate races. It shows that Latino and immigrant electorate is
growing, is highly
, and is strongly influenced by the immigration debate.

It’s clear both campaigns get how important these voters
are, and how important immigration remains as an issue. If it wasn’t, the candidates wouldn’t be spending
precious campaign dollars on Spanish-language television ads in Colorado, New
Mexico, Nevada, and Florida right now to battle it out about who supported
comprehensive immigration reform the most.