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Growth in Latino enthusiasm and Democratic vote numbers disheartening for the GOP

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Cross-Posted at Latino Decisions and Latino Vote Matters.

By Gary Segura, a Principal of Latino Decisions and Professor of Political Science at Stanford University:

Week 5 of the ImpreMedia/Latino Decisions 2012 Tracking Poll reveals stabilizing numbers in the Presidential election, growing Latino support in the generic House ballot and—perhaps most importantly for Democratic prospects overall and most disheartening for Republicans—significant growth in Latino enthusiasm for the election. [Download full week 5 results here]

Horserace and Congressional Vote

We find President Obama leading Governor Romney 69-24 (and 7% undecided), which represents a three-point growth in his advantage over last week (which was 68-26). While this growth is within the margin-of-error, the trend over the last four weeks is unmistakable and statistically significant. In weeks 1 and 2, we found the president’s support at 65% and 64%, respectively. In the three weeks since, we found the President’s support at 66% in week 3, 68% in week 4 and 69% in week 5. Meanwhile, Governor Romney’s support peaked at 30% in the week of the RNC but has declined every week to its current low of 24%. Anyway you cut it, President Obama appears to be consolidating his advantage among Latino voters.

While the numbers are not as resounding, Democratic support has likewise grown on the generic House ballot. Democratic support fell from 64% to 58% across the first weeks with the impact of the RNC, but has recovered to 67% this week, exceeding the previous high. By contrast, GOP support in the generic House ballot maxed out at 27% in the week after the RNC but has now retreated to just 22%, with 11% still undecided.

The Disappearing Enthusiasm Problem

Perhaps more vexing for the GOP than the negligible or absent impact of their convention or campaign is the substantial growth we see in overall Latino enthusiasm. The GOP has been generally advantaged in enthusiasm for most of the cycle, in part due to disappointment from key Democratic constituencies with the President’s first term, and in part because of the unusual level of unity among Republicans with regard to the President. For Latinos, the GOP has largely abandoned persuasion strategies and instead—primarily through the instrument of Super-PACS—messaged around the disappointment theme, particularly on immigration, in hopes of driving down Latino turnout.

In our early polling, disappointment was apparent within the Latino electorate. In our Univision polls in November and January, Latino registered voters overwhelmingly reported having been more excited in 2008 than they anticipated in 2012. That situation, while ameliorated slightly, was still in place at the start of our tracker.

Today, however, the enthusiasm growth has been palpable. The latest poll shows 46% of Latinos overall are more enthusiastic this year, compared with only 29% reporting greater enthusiasm four years ago. This is an almost perfect reversal of our findings from last November, one year before the election, and no doubt a reflection of both the administrations efforts on immigration and the GOP rhetoric during their primary season and its effects on the Romney candidacy. Today, 83% of Latino registered voters report being somewhat or very enthusiastic about voting in the November election, suggesting that the politics of disappointment will weigh down Latino turnout far less than we once might have expected.

Foreign Policy

This week, the Impremedia/Latino Decisions Tracking Poll turned our policy attention to Foreign Policy concerns. Foreign policy jumped back onto the campaign agenda after events in Libya and controversial statements by Governor Romney, criticizing the administration and State Department.

When asked which party and candidate they trust to “make the right decisions” regarding policy in the Middle East, Latino registered voters prefer President Obama and the Democrats by a resounding 71% to 24%. When asked about relations with Latin America, the region of birth for some of our respondents and of ancestry for all of them, Latino registered voters preferred the President to Governor Romney and his Republican co-partisans by an even more impressive margin of 57% (74% to 17%).

The president has long been thought to be on very solid electoral ground with respect to foreign policy and Libya provided Governor Romney with what he perceived was an opening. Our data appear to suggest however that foreign policy is no more fertile an issue domain than others for growing the GOP share of the Latino vote in this election.