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NEW POLL: Florida Latino and New Citizen Voters Proved Decisive in 2012 Elections

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Florida’s Diversifying Latino Voters Deliver for Obama, Nelson

Newly-released election-eve polling from impreMedia and Latino Decisions – which surveyed Latino voters nationally and in eleven states, including Florida – shows how the candidates’ positions on immigration and other top issues were pivotal in determining the winners and losers in the 2012s.

The Republican Party used to consider Florida Latinos a safe bet, but the population is diversifying rapidly and increasingly trending Democratic.  This new poll shows Latino voters supported Obama over Romney by 58% to 40%, for a net contribution of 3.1 percentage points to Obama (according to Latino Decisions’ estimate that Latinos accounted for 17.4% of the total electorate). This contribution was larger than Obama’s likely total margin of victory of .5% in Florida — meaning that the Latino vote was not only important, but decisive.  Latinos were similarly influential in the closely-contested Senate race, in which they supported Democratic Senator Bill Nelson over Republican challenger Connie Mack by a margin of 59% to 40%, ensuring Nelson’s re-election and helping to keep the Senate in Democratic hands once again.  In House races, 58% of Latinos told Latino Decisions they voted for the Democratic candidate in their district, while 40% voted for the Republican. This support for Democrats was especially important in competitive races in the 18th and 22nd Districts.

According to Casey Klofstad, Political Science Professor at the University of Miami, “the Latino vote has helped a sitting president in a time of unprecedented economic crisis remain highly competitive in one of the hardest-hit states in the union. Registration and turnout among Florida’s Latinos continue to increase with every election, and exit polls show that Obama’s share of the Latino vote there increased from 67% in 2008 to 71% in 2012. The data collected last night by impreMedia-Latino Decisions suggest three reasons for why this is the case. First, while 57% of Florida’s Latinos reported that the economy was the most important issue in this election, higher than the national average, they also believed that the mixed approach of tax increases and spending cuts advocated by the President is superior to Governor Romney’s approach of only cutting spending. Second, immigration was the second-most important issue motivating Florida’s Latino vote. The more moderate approach to immigration policy advocated by President Obama made a plurality of them more enthusiastic about his candidacy, while Romney’s heavy-handed “self deportation” approach was perceived far less enthusiastically. Third, all told, a majority of Florida’s Latinos felt that Obama truly cares about their community. In contrast, two-thirds of Florida’s Latino electorate felt that Governor Romney did not care about, or was even hostile, to their community.”

According to Frank Sharry of America’s Voice Education Fund, “The GOP’s lurch to the right on immigration destroyed their chances of re-taking the White House and the Senate. Obama leaned into the issue by protecting DREAMers, a move that mobilized Latino voters and did not hurt him with swing voters. As a result, the 2012 election is a game-changer. It produced a mandate for immigration reform.”

Latino Decisions has been called the “gold standard” of Latino voter polling, using highly sophisticated methods to identify Latino voters who are extremely likely to vote and ensure a representative sample.  More information on the methods used by Latino Decisions to complete the 2010 election eve survey is available here.

Among the poll’s findings:

Florida Latinos Influence the Outcomes of National and State Races

  • In the presidential race, 58% of Florida Latinos voted for President Obama, while 40% voted for Mitt Romney.
  • In the U.S. Senate race, 59% of Florida Latinos voted for Bill Nelson, while 40% voted for Connie Mack.
  • In Florida’s U.S. House races, 58% of Latinos voted for the Democratic candidate in their district, while 42% voted for the Republican.

Top Issues for Latino Voters

  • 57% of Florida Latinos said that fixing the economy and creating more jobs was the most important issue facing the Latino community that Congress and the President should address.  This was followed by 35% who said the same about immigration reform and the DREAM Act, 13% who said health care, and 12% who said education reform.

Immigration Isn’t Just Policy, It’s Personal

  • 46% of Latinos in Florida know someone who is undocumented.
  • 56% of Florida Latinos said that Obama “truly cares” about the Latino community, 32% said he “didn’t care too much,” and 5% said he “was being hostile.”  Meanwhile,  23% of respondents said that Romney “truly cares” about the Latino community, 49% said he “didn’t care too much,” and 14% said he “was being hostile.”
  • After hearing about President Obama’s deferred action policy, 45% of respondents said that they were “more enthusiastic” about voting for Obama and 10% said that they were “less enthusiastic.”  Meanwhile, after hearing about Mitt Romney’s campaign platform of “self-deportation” and learning that he would not revoke deferred action for DREAMers whose applications are approved under Obama but would stop approving new applications once he is elected, 12% of respondents said that they were “more enthusiastic” about Romney and 51% of respondents said that they were “less enthusiastic.”
  •  If the Republican Party “took a leadership role in supporting comprehensive immigration reform, with an eventual pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, and Republicans worked to ensure it would pass,” 39% of respondents said they would be more likely to vote Republican and 8% said they would be less likely.

For the full results from Florida, other battleground states, and the national poll, click http://www.latinodecisions.com/2012-election-eve-polls/.