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Obama's Approval Rating Lower Among Latinos, But That Won't Help Republicans Without Immigration Reform

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latinos obamaObama’s approval ratings among Hispanics are down.  According to a new Gallup poll, Hispanic support for the president has dropped from 75% last December to 52% last month, more than double his drop rate among whites or African Americans.  An article at the Washington Post today explains what these numbers have to do with immigration reform, and why both parties need to push forward on the issue.

As Scott Clement writes:

This is not the first time Hispanics have swung away from Obama. In 2011, Obama’s approval sank to a year-average 53 percent among Hispanics, almost exactly where he stands today. His approval rating grew steadily through the 2012 campaign and hit 70 percent on the eve of his reelection…

What explains Hispanics volatile attitudes toward Obama? One possibility is that in 2010 and 2011 Hispanics soured on Obama for some of the same reasons as other Americans — including a weak economy and ugly debt ceiling battle — but also disappointment with his handling of immigration issues, especially deportations of undocumented immigrants. In 2011, nearly six in 10 disapproved of his handling of deportations.

Obama’s record-high rate of deportations have hurt his image among some in the immigrant and Latino community.  Sometimes called the “deporter-in-chief,” Obama is headed toward his 2 millionth deportation, and will have deported more immigrants than any other president in history.

In 2012, however, Obama’s reelection was saved from his deportation record by two things: his announcement of the new deferred action for DREAMers (DACA) program, and Mitt Romney’s insistence on making the Latino community his enemy, by promoting concepts like self-deportation.  As the Washington Post article continues:

In 2012, Republican primary candidates proposed controversial “self-deportation” as a solution to dealing with undocumented immigrants, and the Obama administration introduced a program allowing young undocumented immigrants to apply for temporary legal status. The campaign debates also focused on areas where Hispanics appear to agree more with Democrats — including the size of government, how to create jobs and health care. These along with a natural boost after being reelected boosted Obama’s standing among Hispanics in 2012.

The latest souring could be the fallback from that high, with a continually weak economy, poor implementation of the health-care law and stagnated immigration reform all weighing Obama’s ratings down. The latest sharp shift away from among Hispanics should not be written off. In the short term, skepticism of the president will hobble Obama’s efforts to rally Hispanic support for Democratic candidates in 2014. In the longer term, it demonstrates Democrats have yet to secure a durable loyalty among Hispanic Americans, opening the door for Republicans to offer a better option.

Yes: if the President doesn’t do something about his ugly deportation record, Democrats–especially the 2016 nominee and Nancy Pelosi, who runs the House Democratic caucus–will be in big trouble when the time comes to turn out Latino voters.  But before Republicans get too excited, they need to remember that they have less than nothing to show on the issue of immigration.  Senate Republicans this year did help pass a bipartisan immigration reform bill, S. 744, that included a path to citizenship.  But House Republicans have only given Steve King a vote to deport DREAMers, passed the SAFE Act out of committee, and stalled on real immigration reform.

Jorge Ramos, last night on the Daily Show, did a brilliant job of explaining why Republicans can’t hope to attract Latino voters as long as they’re bad on immigration.  The Democrats, with Obama’s record of deportation, are leaving Republicans an opening among Latino voters.  But as long as the GOP refuses to pass immigration reform, they don’t have a shot of taking it.