Cross-posted at Latino Decisions blog.
With Election Day in Virginia today and the gubernatorial candidates’ positioning on immigration reform on stark display, a new election-eve poll, sponsored by America’s Voice, People for the American Way and Latino Decisions reveals how Virginia’s changing demographics are also changing the state’s politics. The polling data present a sign of things to come for the national GOP in 2014 and beyond.
A second installment of the election-eve poll, which includes candidate selection, will be released when the polls close in Virginia tonight at 7pm eastern. If you would like to receive an advanced copy of the embargoed results, please email Katy@newpartners.com. The entire poll will be discussed on Wednesday, November 6th, at a noonpress call/webinar with Latino Decisions, People For the American Way, and America’s Voice.
Immigration weighs heavily in Latino and Asians’ voting decisions. Over half (53%) of Latinos rank immigration as the most important issue facing the Latino community that politicians should address.
When asked about the role of immigration in their voting decisions, 53% of Latinos and 46% of Asians said it was either “the most important issue” or “one of the most important issues” in their “decision to vote, and who to vote for.”
Candidates’ positive and negative immigration positions move voters. After hearing Terry McAuliffe’s position on immigration, including his support for a pathway to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States and for the Virginia state DREAM Act, 56% of Latinos and 40% of Asians said that they were more enthusiastic about McAuliffe. After hearing that Ken Cuccinelli proposed a law to take away citizenship from children whose parents are undocumented and wanted to authorize local police to check the papers of anyone they think might be undocumented, 64% of Latinos and 50% of Asians said this made them less enthusiastic about Cuccinelli.
As Michael Keegan, President of People For the American Way, put it: “Ken Cuccinelli is leaning heavily on the politics of exclusion, especially when it comes to Latinos and immigrants. This election will prove that if the Republican Party moves further in the exclusionary direction of the Tea Party, it will do so at its own peril.”
Cuccinelli’s hardline immigration positions hurt not only him, but the Republican Party overall. After hearing a statement from Cuccinelli comparing immigrant families to rat families, 70% of Latinos and 59% of Asians said it made them look less favorably on the Republican Party as a whole.
The comments were most salient to foreign-born Latinos and US-born Asians, who said it made them view the GOP more negatively at a rate of 75% and 74% respectively. After learning that Cuccinelli sponsored a bill as state Senator that would allow employers to fire any workers who did not speak English, 75% of Latinos and 67% of Asians said this made them less favorable to the Republican Party as a whole.
The good news for the GOP is that they can stop the bleeding, but they need to act. This evening, we will release candidate choice numbers for key VA races, but it’s safe to say that they will be less than stellar for the GOP candidates. In fact, a majority of Latino (58%) and Asian (68%) voters have voted for a Republican candidate at some point in their lives.
This is, in essence, the swing vote within the two electorates that could move toward the GOP if the Party stops immigrant bashing and starts passing immigration solutions. Also in the poll, 69% of Latinos and 47% of Asians said they would be less favorable to the GOP if the House continues its current stance on immigration reform. If the House takes action, pluralities of Latinos (41%) and Asians (43%) would have a better view of the Republican Party even if some of its members still oppose reform.
“The polls show that championing anti-immigrant positions and siding with extremists not only does serious damage to individual candidates, but the party as a whole. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte, and Speaker John Boehner should be watching the results of the Virginia election closely. They can stop the bleeding, but they have to change course on immigration reform,” said Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice.
“Bring citizenship up for a vote on the House floor. We know we have the votes to pass it. The right policy for the country is actually the right political move for the GOP. As David Gergen put it just a year ago, immigration reform will happen because Democrats want it but Republicans need it,” Sharry concluded.
Gary Segura, Professor of American Politics and Chair of Chicano/a Studies, Stanford University and Co-Founder of Latino Decisions noted, “Hostility to immigrants–once a political wedge that worked for Republicans–has clearly now become an Achilles’ heel for the Party. Latinos and Asians, climbing towards 10% of the electorate in Virginia, are clearly and profoundly put off by GOP rhetoric on this litmus-test issue for these immigrant-heavy communities. Continued antagonism toward immigration reform has the potential to erode or erase GOP competitiveness in this important and growing purple state.”
The second installment of the poll of 400 Asian and 400 Latino “extremely likely” voters in Virginia, including candidate choice, is also now available to reporters (embargoed until 7pm). To request the full poll under embargo, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
All data will be public as the polls close in Virginia tonight, and can be found on the Latino Decisions website. Tomorrow, Wednesday, November 6th at 12pm ET, pollsters, civic engagement leaders and immigration experts will then analyze the full results on a press call/webinar. To participate in the noon Eastern press call/webinar on 11/6 call 1-866-952-7534; Passcode: VIRGINIA and follow the presentation here (meeting ID: VIRGINIA, entry code: ATTEND).
Press call speakers include: Gary Segura, Professor of American Politics and Chair of Chicano/a Studies, Stanford University; Principal, Latino Decisions; Xavier Medina Vidal, Assistant Professor of Political Science at Virginia Tech; Dolores Huerta, Co-Founder of the United Farm Workers Union and longtime civil rights and labor activist; Michael Keegan, President, People For the American Way; and Frank Sharry, Executive Director, America’s Voice.