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"Electric Fence" No Laughing Matter for Republican Presidential Field

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New Latino Decisions Poll Shows that GOP Continues to Ignore and Alienate Latino Voters at its Own Peril

A new poll shows that Latino voters don’t know who the Republican 2012 presidential candidates are, but they don’t like their immigration positions.  Rhetoric like Herman Cain’s, who this weekend called for an electrified fence and “real guns and real bullets” to deter border-crossers, is unlikely to improve things for the GOP.  According to Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice, “Cain may have been ‘joking,’ but suggesting that murder is a way to address illegal immigration just isn’t funny.” 

According to new polling of Latino voters released today by Latino Decisions/impreMedia, the Republican field is facing both low name recognition among Latino voters as well as low approval for their Party among this fastest growing demographic group of new voters.  The polling found that 40% of Latino respondents had no opinion or were not familiar with Rick Perry, a figure that rose to 46% for Mitt Romney, 58% for Michele Bachmann, 73% for Herman Cain, and 75% for Jon Huntsman.  As a whole, the Republican Party still faces low approval among Latino voters, as only 22% of Latino voters said they were likely to support the Republican presidential nominee, which is a long way from the 40% minimum needed for the GOP candidate to re-take the White House.

The new polling also shows that Latino voters continue to be animated by the immigration issue, ranking it as the top issue for Washington to address, alongside economy/jobs (both received 42% support as the top issue named by Latino voters).  Instead of viewing the combination of low name recognition and a poor brand image for Republicans as an opportunity to reshape Latino voter sentiment for the 2012 cycle, the Republican presidential field has tacked hard right and seems to be doing everything in its power to make the Party’s existing problems with Latino voters even worse. 

According to Sharry, “Republicans seem intent to double down on their existing image among Latino voters as insensitive, anti-Latino, and anti-immigrant.  It’s the height of short-sighted politics for the GOP field to continue to find new ways to tell Latino voters, many of whom live in mixed legal status families, that they are essentially not welcome in the Republicans’ vision of America.  It’s also a missed opportunity to view the field’s low level of name recognition among Latinos as a chance to redefine the Party as more welcoming to new immigrants and Latinos.”

In just the latest evidence of the GOP’s field’s alienating approach to immigration reform,  Michele Bachmann joined Cain in making incendiary comments about immigration over the weekend.  Bachmann went to the 33% Hispanic town of Perry, IA to deliver a screed about the costs of illegal immigration, bolstered by patently exaggerated cost estimates, while signing a pledge on border security issued by the fringe organization “Americans for Securing Our Border” and attacking Gov. Rick Perry because “the Mexican government praised the governor of Texas.” 

Meanwhile, the Hispanic Leadership Network, a Republican-affiliated effort to improve Party competitiveness with Latino voters, can’t even muster a way to include pro-immigration policy position on its website, relying instead on hackneyed platitudes like, “Now more than ever we need to bring our country together and find common sense solutions to address our broken immigration system,” and the placeholder, “Look for our policy position in the next few weeks.” 

Added Sharry, “Translation?  Even on the website of an organization designed to appeal to Latino voters, Republicans are wary of alienating the anti-immigrant forces that are now ascendant and predominant in their ranks.  When will the responsible and savvy members of the Party actually stand up to the anti-immigrant forces in their midst in order to give Republican candidates a fighting chance with Latino voters?”

For more information, see:

America’s Voice — Harnessing the power of American voices and American values to win common sense immigration reform.