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Polling: Supreme Court Decision on Arizona’s SB1070 Could Alienate Latino Voters

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This week Latino Decisions and America’s Voice release additional datapoints from our June 2012 5-state battleground survey.  Below are results and related analysis from Matt Barreto of Latino Decisions:

In advance of the Supreme Court decision on Arizona’s controversial SB1070, we asked Latino voters how they would feel if the court were to uphold the law.  In addition, to dig deeper into the impact this could have on interconnected immigrant and U.S. born Latino community, we asked Latino registered voters if they personally know any undocumented immigrants today.  Finally, given the partisan rhetoric surrounding SB1070 in Arizona and around the country, we return to a question on how respondents evaluated both political parties in terms of outreach to Hispanic voters.

Since Arizona passed their immigration law in 2010, we have repeatedly asked Latinos in Arizona, and nationally whether they supported or opposed the law, and consistently found a strong majority oppose.  Earlier this month a Latino Decisions survey with Texas A&M political science professors Joseph Ura and Francisco Pedraza found 71% of Latinos would be opposed to the Court upholding SB1070. In this poll, we turn to the possible implications of such a decision.  We asked Latino voters, “If the Court does uphold the Arizona immigration law do you think this will contribute to an anti-immigrant, anti-Hispanic environment in America, OR this is just politics as usual and it won’t have much effect.”  Overall in the Latino Decisions/Americas Voice battleground state survey 60% of Latino voters felt the decision would create an anti-immigrant and anti-Hispanic environment in America, while 28% said upholding the law would have no effect (see figure 1).  Across the states, the worry about an anti-Latino environment was strongest in Arizona and Nevada, two states marked by anti-immigrant politics during the 2010 election.  Even though the Arizona law claims to only target undocumented immigrants, the survey results show that a clear majority of U.S. citizen Latinos, who are registered to vote, are also concerned about the implications of the law being upheld.  This finding is consistent with a 2010 Latino Decisions poll which found that 85% of Latinos in Arizona believed the new law would results in U.S. citizen Latinos being racially profiled, and stopped by police.

A personal connection

In addition to concerns over an anti-immigrant, and anti-Latino environment in the wake of a decision on SB1070, we also examine the personal connection between Latino voters and undocumented immigrants.  While some pundits have attempted to segregate “legal” and “illegal” immigrants in directing their hostilities towards illegal immigrants, the newest data from the Latino Decisions/Americas Voice poll suggest no such dichotomy exists.  When asked if respondents personally know someone who is undocumented, 55% of Latino registered voters said yes – including 11% who said someone in their family is undocumented.  Looking to the individual battlegrounds, in some states an overwhelming majority of Latino voters are closely acquainted with undocumented immigrants (see figure 2).  In Nevada 74% say they know an undocumented immigrant, and in Arizona 68%.  Beyond just merely being acquainted with undocumented immigrants, 30% of Latino registered voters say they know of a person or family who has faced detention or deportation for immigration reasons (see figure 3).  In Nevada 41% know someone who has faced immigration proceedings.  This demonstrates beyond the concerns over racial profiling, or creating an un-friendly atmosphere for Latinos, that a very large number of Latino voters have a direct connection to people who will be effected by Arizona’s racial profiling law.

Are Political Parties Reassuring Latinos?

Given concerns over the Court decision on SB1070, and efforts by Democrats and Republicans to walk a tight rope on state immigration laws in places like Arizona and Alabama, a looming question is how Latinos view the two political parties in terms of reaching out, or advocating on behalf of Latino issues.  Overall, we found 50% said the Democratic Party was doing a good job of reaching out to Latinos, up from 39% who liked Democratic outreach in our January 2012 poll.  In contrast 30% said the Democrats were generally ignoring Latinos and 6% said they were being hostile towards Latino issues.  When evaluating the Republican Party, 15% said they were doing a good job of Hispanic outreach compared to 42% who said they were mostly ignoring Latinos and 31% who said Republicans were hostile towards Latinos, slightly worse than in January when 17% said the GOP was doing good and 27% said they were being hostile.  While the Democrats perform better than Republicans in perceptions of outreach to Hispanics, Democrats are only performing well in the minds of half of all Latino registered voters.  For Republicans the outlook is more worrisome with 73% of Latino voters saying the Republicans are either ignoring or being hostile towards Latinos.  Given this current rating, and prior Republican statements in favor of SB1070, it will be difficult for them to change this perception in the short term.