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Latino Voters, Immigration Reform, and the 2010 Elections

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Experts and New Polling Highlight How the DREAM Act and Broader Immigration Reform Debates Influence Political Choices by Latinos

Washington, DC – As Congress breaks and the 2010 campaigns heat up, political observers are wondering how the immigration debate in Washington, DC and across the country will impact the mid-term elections.  Tracking polling by Latino Decisions is showing small but clear movement toward the Democrats, in the wake of a September debate on the DREAM Act in the Senate.  However, a number of Latinos still feel that the Democratic Party has taken a hands-off approach to the issue, with potentially big implications for dozens of battleground races across the nation.  

On a press conference call held yesterday, experts on Latino voter political engagement and immigration reform discussed the findings of the Latino Decisions polling and efforts by organizations such as Mi Familia Vota Civic Participation Campaign to turn out immigrant and Latino voters in November.

According to Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice and moderator of the call, “The immigration debate and both parties’ handling of the issue is clearly having a major effect on Latino mobilization efforts.  The million dollar question for 2010 will be whether Latinos’ recent uptick in enthusiasm for Democrats and continued view of Republicans as anti-immigrant supersedes traditionally low levels of Latino turnout in mid-term elections, and lingering frustration from Latino voters that immigration reform hasn’t been more of a priority in Congress.”

Ben Monterroso, Executive Director of Mi Familia Vota Civic Participation Campaign, discussed efforts to mobilize Latino voters, including “low-propensity” voters in states such as Arizona, California, Colorado, Illinois, and Texas.  “Our community wants results on immigration reform.  The Latino community knows that our vote is our voice – and if we don’t exercise our vote and hold elected officials accountable, some politicians will continue to attack our community.”

Also on yesterday’s call, Matt Barreto of polling firm Latino Decisions said, “Latino voters are very interested in seeing immigration reform move forward and the level of Latino support for Democratic candidates is still below the self-identified percentage of Latinos who are Democrats.  However, possibly because of the DREAM Act, Democrats are slowly recovering ground that they had lost – not to Republicans, but to unenthusiastic and undecided Latino voters.”

Barreto’s assessment comes as new polling released from Latino Decisions in twenty-one key states found that 72% of Latino voters think the Senate “should have passed” the DREAM Act as an amendment to the Defense authorization bill, while only 17% think the Republican Party’s successful efforts to block it were “the right thing to do.”

The tracking polls show several important developments since September 20th – immediately before the DREAM debate in the Senate.  Latino voters now express a higher likelihood to vote in November, have increased their support for a generic Democratic candidate, and are more likely to believe that Democrats are working to pass immigration reform compared to the pre-DREAM debate polling.  Meanwhile, compared to the September 20th poll, Latino voters are now less likely to favor a generic Republican candidate and to believe that Republicans are working to pass immigration reform, while more likely to believe Republicans are trying to block reform.

While 40% of Latino voters say Republicans are blocking reform, the same number also say Democrats are ignoring or avoiding the issue.  With Democrats in close races in a number of states and districts with Latino voters, this could hurt the Democratic Party, as the Latino Decisions polling shows immigration to be the second most important concern of Latinos (after the economy).  See the table below for a comparison of these questions from September 20 to today.  Full results available here.

Latino Voters’ Opinion of Parties in the U.S. Congress on Immigration


September 20th

October 4th

Do you think Democrats in the U.S. Congress are ignoring or avoiding the issue of immigration reform?



Do you think Democrats in the U.S. Congress are working to pass immigration reform?



Do you think Democrats in the U.S. Congress are opposing or blocking immigration reform?



Do you think Republicans in the U.S. Congress are ignoring or avoiding the issue of immigration reform?



Do you think Republicans in the U.S. Congress are working to pass immigration reform?



Do you think Republicans in the U.S. Congress are opposing or blocking immigration reform?



Do you plan to vote for the Democratic candidate or the Republican candidate in November?







Likelihood of voting in November, 2010?

Almost certain



Polling Results from Latino Decisions Weekly Tracking Poll of Latino Voters in 21 States: http://latinodecisions.wordpress.com/

For more on the role of Latino voters in the 2010 and 2012 elections, and how they view the two parties, see this report from America’s Voice and the full collection of tracking polls from Latino Decisions.