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New Poll: Latino “Presidential” Voters on Potential 2016 Candidates and the Role of Immigration Reform

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Just a few days after the Senate passed historic immigration legislation, on a webinar / press call today Latino Decisions and America’s Voice released the latest in a series of polls that shows the opportunities and challenges for the GOP as the party of Reagan tries to repair its image with Latinos.

This poll of Latino presidential voters—people who have voted in the past two presidential elections and are extremely likely to turn out in 2016—shows that the Republican Party cannot win the threshold 38-42% of Latino voters that it needs to be competitive in a national election unless and until they exercise leadership in Congress and get the immigration issue off the table.

Matt Barreto, Associate Professor, Political Science, University of Washington and Principal, Latino Decisions said, “Latino presidential voters are very persuadable, depending on what the candidates say and do on immigration reform.  Most notably, the data make clear that Marco Rubio has a huge opportunity to win a big share of the Latino vote, but he must demonstrate leadership on immigration reform and not let it falter in the House.”

Among the poll’s highlights:

  • Immigration is a very salient issue for Latino voters who are paying close attention. 53% of respondents consider immigration reform the most important issue facing the community that President and Congress need to address, and 80% of Latino voters are following the immigration debate in the news – including 82% of respondents who have voted for the GOP in the past.
  • When it comes to Latino presidential voters today, Democrats start with the strong upper hand.  In head to head match-ups, Clinton beats Rubio 66% to 28%, Ryan 73% to 21%, and Jeb Bush 74% to 20%.
  • The way to break this logjam for Republicans is to show leadership on immigration reform.  When told that Marco Rubio played a key role in passing immigration reform with a path to citizenship, 54% of respondents said they would be more likely to vote for Marco Rubio for President, including 50% of Obama voters and 58% of those who have ever voted for a Republican in the past—the real Latino swing/Republican growth segment of the electorate.  Fully 47% said they would be more likely to vote for Jeb Bush for President under a similar set of circumstances, and 44% said they would be more likely to vote for Paul Ryan for President if he plays a leadership role in passing reform with a path to citizenship.  Leaning into immigration reform and getting this result is the only way for the GOP to hit the reset button with Latinos and regain the percentage they need to be competitive.
  • This WON’T happen if House restrictionists continue to drive the Party’s immigration strategy and actions. When told that 221 Republicans in the House of Representatives voted to cancel funding for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Program, 75% of respondents said this make them less favorable to the GOP.

Said Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice:

There’s a growing debate in Republican circles on the impact of the immigration reform debate on the GOP’s future.  Some, like John McCain and Lindsey Graham, argue that passing immigration reform is the key to regaining electoral competitiveness with Latino voters.  There’s another school of thought that says Hispanic voters don’t matter much to the GOP’s future, therefore immigration reform is not necessary and the key is for the GOP is to mobilize more white voters.  The data released today, however, comes down squarely on the McCain/Graham side of the argument.   If GOP contenders such as Marco Rubio help pass immigration reform with a path to citizenship, their chances of winning the 40% or more of the Latino vote improve considerably, and 40% is what George Bush won on his way to re-election just nine years ago.  The opposite is also clear: if the GOP contenders are associated with the defeat of immigration reform, their chances of losing a larger share of the Latino vote increase as well.