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America’s Voice Releases “Spotlight on Nevada: Immigration, Latino Voters and the 2012 Elections”

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First in Series of State Fact Sheets Highlighting Key Statistics and Information about 2012 Latino Battleground States

 Today, America’s Voice releases “Spotlight on Nevada: Immigration, Latino Voters, and the 2012 Elections.”  The Nevada release is the first in a series of “state spotlights” focusing on the power of the Latino vote in 2012 Latino battleground states.  In the coming weeks before the party conventions, America’s Voice will release additional fact sheets highlighting the Latino vote in states like Arizona, Colorado, Florida, New Mexico and Virginia.

Both political parties seem to recognize the key role of Latinos in shaping Nevada’s electoral races in 2012, as well as the importance of immigration to Nevada Latino voters.  Yesterday, conservative groups released a new Spanish-language ad targeting Nevada Latinos that criticizes President Obama’s record number of deportations.  Of course, they fail to recognize the fact that Republican candidate Mitt Romney has criticized the President for being too lenient on enforcement, and supports a national self-deportation plan instead of comprehensive immigration reform.  Further America’s Voice analysis of the ad and its underlying motivations is available here.

The America’s Voice spotlight contains lots of key information to keep on file, including a snapshot of recent polling of Nevada Latino voters; an updated look at Nevada’s Latino population and estimates of the Latino share of eligible and registered voters; a snapshot of 2012 competitive Senate and House races, examining the role of immigration in the Senate race between Dean Heller and Shelley Berkley, as well as the competitive NV-3 and NV-4 congressional races; a look back at Latino voters’ roles in previous elections in Nevada; and access to an interactive map that will let users view for themselves how fluctuations in Latino turnout could swing elections in this and other states

See below for the spotlight (also posted online here):


Click here to download PDF.

In the Presidential race, Nevada is considered a battleground state. Nevada also has a competitive Senate race, which pits incumbent Senator Dean Heller (R), who was appointed to fill the vacancy left by Senator John Ensign’s retirement, against U.S. Representative Shelley Berkeley (D).  Also, two of the four House races are viewed as competitive.  As in 2010, Latino voters will play a determinative role this cycle in Nevada.

Nevada’s Latino population grew 81% between 2000 and 2010, and was responsible for almost half (46%) of the state’s population growth.  This growth helped Nevada win a fourth congressional seat and an additional electoral vote, bringing its total to six.

We saw the power of the Latino vote in the 2010 Senate matchup between Majority Leader Harry Reid and Republican Sharron Angle. Immigration was a key issue during that race, which Reid won 50% to 45%.  Latinos accounted for 12% of the electorate and Reid secured 90% of that vote. According to Latino Decisions, the net effect of the Latino vote in the 2010 Senate race was a 10 point swing to Harry Reid—that’s TWICE his margin of victory over Sharron Angle.In fact, Senate Majority Leader Reid creditedhis 2010 victory to Latino turnout.

Polling of Latino Voters in Nevada 

All findings are from a June 2012 Latino Decisions/America’s Voice poll of 400 Latino voters in Nevada (part of a poll of 2,000 Latino voters across five battleground states). Full poll results for all states can be found here, and further analysis can be found here.

  • The immigration issue motivates Nevada Latinos.  Sixty-three percent say that President Obama’s decision to protect DREAMers from deportation has made them more enthusiastic about voting for him; the same number say Mitt Romney’s opposition to the DREAM Act and support for “self-deportation” make them less likely to vote for him in November.
  • Fifty-two percent of Nevada Latinos named immigration as one of the most important issues that President Obama and Congress should address. Jobs and the economy were also important issues, with 31% of Nevada Latinos naming the economy as one of the most important issues, and 26% naming jobs.
  • Immigration reform is not just an “issue” for Nevada Latinos—it’s personal.  Seventy-four percent know someone who is undocumented, and 41% know someone who has faced detention or deportation.
  • They strongly support President Obama over Mitt Romney.  Sixty-nine percent of Latino voters in Nevada plan to vote for Barack Obama in November, while 20% plan to support Mitt Romney.

Nevada Latinos By The Numbers 


Latinos in Nevada (2010 Census)


Growth in Latino Population, 2000-2010 (2010 Census)


Latino Proportion of Eligible Voters (projection via William Frey/Ruy Teixeira, 2012)


Latino Proportion of Registered Voters (projection via Latino Decisions, 2012)

Competitive 2012 Senate Race

Incumbent: Dean Heller (R), appointed 2011

Latino % of Population 26.5%
Candidates Shelly Berkley (D), U.S. Representativevs. Dean Heller (R), incumbent
Competitiveness Rating Toss-up (as of 5/31) (Cook Political Report); 8th most likely to flip parties among all Senate races (National Journal)
Immigration In The Race Dean Heller has been vocally anti-immigrant since being appointed to the Senate in 2010. In January 2012, he toldHispanic business leaders that he opposed the DREAM Act and believed in ending birthright citizenship. His campaign website, however, contains different messages on immigration in its Spanish-language and English-language versions, and he has been trying to appear more moderate on the issue.Democratic Congresswoman Shelley Berkley has a pro-immigrant record in Congress; her campaign website features a petition calling Heller’s agenda “downright insulting” to Nevada Hispanics. She has been strongly supportive of President Obama’s recent action to provide relief from deportation to DREAMers.
Polling Latinos
Berkley: 53%
Heller: 30%
Undecided: 17%
(Latino Decisions, June 2012; see polling details in previous section)Overall
Berkley: 44%
Heller: 46%
Undecided: 10%
(NBC/Marist, May 2012)

Competitive 2012 House Races*

Congressional  District

Latino % of Population




Immigration in the Race

NV-3—Heck (R) 15.66%(estimate via Nevada state legislature) John Oceguera, state Assembly Speaker (D) vs. U.S. Representative Joe Heck (R),who won in 2010 by 1,748 votes R toss-up (Cook Political Report); 31st most likely to flip among all House races (National Journal) In February 2012, Heck stated that he has concerns about the DREAM Act and is open to altering the 14th Amendment.
NV-4—NEW 27.26%(estimate via Nevada state legislature) OPEN SEAT: Steven Hosford, state senate Majority Leader (D) vs. Danny Tarkanian, real estate agent and 2010 Senate candidate (R) Likely D (Cook Political Report); 40th most likely to flip among all House races (National Journal) In July 2012, Tarkanian had a tense meeting with Hispanic activists in which he accused President Obama of using Hispanics as a “political football.”Regarding Obama’s relief for DREAMers, he said “I certainly don’t agree with it because it wasn’t passed in Congress.”

*In 2012 there are two other House districts in Nevada.  The 1stcongressional districtin Las Vegas is an open seat, but considered a safe Democratic district this cycle. Nevada’s 2ndcongressional district is rated as a safe Republican seat. (These assessments are based on Cook Political Report ratings and the absence of these seats from National Journal rankings.)

Previous Election Data 

Election Overall Result Latino Result Latino % of Electorate Latino Contribution
2010 Nevada Senate Reid 50% – Angle 45% (CNN) Reid 90% – Angle 8% (Latino Decisions) 12% (Latino Decisions) 9.8% to Reid (Latino Decisions)
2010 Nevada U.S. House Races Democrats 45.22% – Republicans 50.85% (Clerk of the U.S. House of Representatives) Democrats 89%-Republicans 11% (Latino Decisions) 12% Latino Decisions) 9.4% to Democrats (Latino Decisions)
2008 Nevada Presidential Results Obama 55% – McCain 43% (CNN) Obama 76% – McCain 22% (CNN) 11.6% (2008 U.S. Census) 6.3% to Obama (CNN/Census)
2008 U.S. House Races in Nevada Democrats 53.18%-Republicans 42.53% (Clerk of the U.S. House of Representatives) Unavailable 11.6% (2008 U.S. Census) Unavailable


Why Latino Turnout Matters In Nevada

The power of the Latino vote in Nevada was clear in the 2010 Senate results.  In Nevada and elsewhere, the Latino firewall played a decisive role in keeping the Senate in Democratic hands, in a year when Republicans were on the rise.  As noted above, Latino voters comprised 12% of the Nevada electorate in 2010.

In June 2012, Latino Decisions and America’s Voice Education Fund unveiled a newonline tool,LatinoVoteMap.org, which allows users to simulate different outcomes in the 2012 election by adjusting Latino turnout levels and candidate choices.

The Latino Vote Map currently shows Obama narrowly winning Nevada with 49.2% of the vote to Romney’s 44.2%. Based on recent polling and voter data, it projects that 14.3% of Nevada voters will be Latino and only 22% of Latinos in the state will vote for Romney. (This projection assumes that the national Latino share of the electorate will be 9% and the national Republican vote share among Latinos will be 24%, which is the most likely outcome Latino Decisions’ model predicts—and thus the “default setting” for the interactive Latino Vote Map.

With such slim margins, every vote counts. The Latino Decisions model currently estimates that the Latino share of the electorate could fall as low as 8% nationwide, and the national Republican share of the vote among Latinos could spike as high as 31.7%.Republican groups already have a strategy to accomplish both of these goals among Nevada’s Latino voters: attacking President Obama on immigration (as they are doing with a Spanish-language TV ad currently airing in the state) to reduce turnout among Democratic-leaning Latinos and expand the share for the GOP. If the strategy works in Nevada, Romney could make a significant dent in Obama’s already tight lead.  If nationwide Latino turnout is 8% of the electorate, and 31.7% of Latinos vote Republican, according to the Latino Decisions model, Latino turnout in Nevada could drop to 11.8% of the electorate, with 29% voting for Romney.  This would cut the President’s already tight lead in Nevada in half, to 47.8% for Obama and 45.6% for Romney.

Visit LatinoVoteMap.org to see for yourself how Latino voters are poised to influence the 2012 elections.