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New Latino Voter Poll: On Immigration, Republicans in 24 Battleground Districts Harmed by Ugly Rhetoric, Half-Measures, and Process Excuses; Helped by Embracing Full and Fair Immigration Reform

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Today, Latino Decisions and America’s Voice released the results of a new poll of Latino voters in 24 Republican-held battleground districts.  The poll probed how immigration reform and the two parties’ handling of it in the House could impact key 2014 races.

Said Gary Segura, Professor of American Politics and Chair of Chicano/a Studies at Stanford University and Principal at Latino Decisions:

I think the message for Republicans is very clear: half-hearted measures are not going to solve the electoral problem that they face. There’s a press meme that’s circulating that says that the Latino vote is a concern for presidential elections but most House members shouldn’t have anything to worry about. And that’s clearly not the case.  In these 24 House districts, which are competitive, where the Latino populations are growing, where the margins of victory are small, there is in fact a potential loss for Republicans at the House level if they fail to act. And half-measures are not going to work, like DREAM-lite, or no citizenship or second class status, those things are not going to solve the problem.

The poll of 800 Latino voters in 24 Republican-held battleground districts was conducted from July 13-July 20, 2013 (the districts were taken from “Tier 1” and “Tier 2” of a recent Latino Decisions analysis on “Latino influence” seats in the coming election).  The sample was divided evenly between 400 Latino voters who voted in the 2010 Midterm elections (identified as “Midterm” voters in the results) and 400 Latino voters who did not vote in the Midterm but did vote in the 2012 Presidential election (identified as “surge” voters in the results).  Full toplines with breakouts for midterm voters, surge voters, and the overall sample are available here.  Interactive results featuring midterm and surge voters are available here.

As the data makes clear, the Republican Party has a real opportunity to expand its reach with Latino voters, but only it moves past ugly rhetoric, half-measures, and process excuses into engaging on real, comprehensive immigration reform.

Among some of the poll’s highlights:

  • Immigration continues to be the most important issue that Latino voters want the President and Congress to address.  59% consider immigration one of the most important issues facing the Latino community and 75% of respondents say it’s extremely or very important for Congress and the President to take it up this year.
  • Latino voters in these battleground districts are watching the immigration debate closely.  86% of midterm voters and 80% of Latinos overall have read or heard about immigration reform in the news.
  • In these districts, Republicans’ approval on immigration is at a deep low. Right now, 70% of Latino midterm voters in these battleground districts disapprove of the job Republicans in Congress are doing handling immigration policy, while only 20% approve.
  • Ugly rhetoric a la Steve King does further damage to the brand.  Two-thirds of Latino voters know someone who is undocumented.  When responding to quotes from Republican Members of Congress like Reps. Steve King and Louie Gohmert that malign undocumented immigrants, the damage is clear.  But after hearing positive comments (the poll tested quotes from Reps. Paul Ryan and Spencer Bachus in addition to negative quotes from King, Gohmert, and others), Latinos’ opinions of the Party improved dramatically.
  • Border first-policies and process excuses like the so-called “Hastert rule” are seen as just that–excuses. 
    • 75% say that they are less likely to support Republicans if they push a bill that makes initial legal status contingent upon a 90% security standard
    • 66% say that the border-first concept is an excuse to block a path to citizenship rather than a legitimate concern
    • 75% say that holding a vote on immigration reform hostage to the so-called “Hastert rule” makes them less favorable toward Republicans in Congress
  • Nothing short of a full path to citizenship will move the needle. 
    • 77% of Latino voters support an immigration plan that combines border security, verification of workers’ status by employers, and a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants
    • On the question of legal status vs. citizenship, 79% of midterm voters support a full pathway to citizenship over a mere 12% who prefer legal status without citizenship
    • Half-measures just don’t impress. In fact, 67% say pushing a bill like the KIDS Act, without addressing the status of other undocumented immigrants, makes them less likely to support Republicans
  • Many Latino voters are willing to give Republicans a second chance if they set aside excuses and schedule a vote on immigration reform with a path to citizenship for 11 million aspiring Americans.  Among midterm Latino voters in these 24 districts:
    • 62% have voted Republican at some point in their lives
    • 50% would be more likely to support a GOP House candidate in their district if they take a leadership role in passing immigration reform with a pathway to citizenship, even if they disagree on other issues
    • 62% would feel more favorable towards Republicans in Congress if Speaker Boehner allows a bipartisan vote immigration reform

Frank Sharry, Executive Director for America’s Voice said:

Latino voters in battleground districts across the country are watching to see how Republicans handle this debate.  They want immigration reform with a path to citizenship for the 11 million and nothing less.  This is a critical moment for the GOP.  They can either take this opportunity to make inroads with the fastest growing demographic in the country, or fall back on excuses and half-measures that do nothing but reinforce their current tarnished brand.