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Heated Immigration Debate Lighting a Fire Under Latino Voters

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Three Recent Polls Show Impact the Immigration Issue will have on 2010 Races

Washington, DC – A new summary of recent Latino voter polls highlights the way the immigration debate is influencing Latino political engagement in the run-up to the November mid-terms.  The lack of action on comprehensive immigration could dampen enthusiasm among Latino voters at a crucial time.  According to an article in today’s POLITICO: “The swing in opinion couldn’t come at a worse time for Democrats, who need a strong Latino turnout in November if they hope to maintain control of Congress. That voting bloc could be decisive in dozens of competitive House, Senate and gubernatorial races across the West, according to a report by America’s Voice, an immigration reform advocacy group.”

However, the three recent polls also make clear that national attention to Arizona’s anti-immigrant law and the negative rhetoric espoused mainly by Republicans—like the latest flap over repealing the 14th Amendment—could, in fact, energize Latinos to turn out this year and punish Republicans. 

According to Lynn Tramonte, Deputy Director of America’s Voice, “Clearly, the current immigration debate—including the national attention to Arizona’s anti-immigrant law—is having a major impact on the way Latino voters view the two political parties and the importance of voting in November.  While the lack of action on comprehensive immigration reform could depress turnout and harm Democrats who are most ‘on the hook’ for delivering that core priority, the anxiety over Arizona’s anti-immigration law and heated rhetoric from the GOP is having a mobilizing effect on Latino voters that could hurt Republicans in November and beyond.  While the story of the 2010 mid-term elections remains to be written, it is clear that Latino voters and the immigration issue in general will be a key chapter.”

The polling summary highlights the results of three recent surveys conducted by LatinoMetrics for the Hispanic Federation and League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC); Dr. Ricardo Ramirez of the University of Southern California for the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials Education Fund (NALEO); and the National Opinion Research Center (NORC) at the University of Chicago for Associated Press-Univision.

The key findings in the public opinion roundup include:

  • Immigration is Now a Top Concern for Latinos:  For the first time in recent memory, immigration has joined the economy and jobs as the top issue for Latinos.

  • Latinos Feel Under Siege Because of Immigration Debate:  The harsh nature of the immigration debate in recent months has contributed to Latinos feeling “less optimistic and more under siege,” in the words of Arturo Vargas, NALEO’s Executive Director and a sponsor of one of the surveys.

  • Immigration – and Arizona’s SB1070 – are Motivating Latinos to Vote:  The polling found overwhelming opposition among Latinos to the Arizona SB1070 law and a direct linkage between the current immigration debate and their motivation to vote this year.

  • Latino Voters Will Punish Republicans Who Oppose Immigration Reform:  Latino voters see the Republican Party as hostile toward them, and view immigration as a non-negotiable “threshold” issue.

  • Latino Voters Want Democrats to Deliver:  While a majority of Latinos favor Democrats, they express disillusionment about the lack of progress on immigration reform. 

  • Lack of Action on Immigration is Hurting President Obama: While President Obama remains popular with Latino voters, they are less positive about his handling of issues specific to them and their families – issues like immigration.

  • Foreign-Born Latino Voters are the Major Swing Bloc Who Care Most About Immigration:  Naturalized citizens are a key sub-group of the Latino vote, whose engagement this year may help tip the scales in a number of races.  These voters feel more of a personal connection to the immigration debate, feel more persecuted and under siege than U.S. born Latinos, and right now are less likely to turn out in 2010 unless given a reason to do so.

Access the Summary of Latino Public Opinion.

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