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NEW POLL: How Latino and New Citizen Voters in New Mexico Influenced the 2012 Elections

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As 40% of All Voters in the State, Latinos’ Overwhelming Support for Democrats Turned State Deep Blue in 2012 

SANTA FE, NM – The 2012 elections demonstrate that, as the rest of the country takes note of the growing impact of Latino and new citizen voters, they should look to New Mexico to see what that could mean. Newly-released election-eve polling from impreMedia and Latino Decisions – which surveyed Latino voters nationally and in eleven states, including New Mexico – shows how these voters’ growing influence, and their attention to the candidates’ positions on immigration and other top Latino issues, have rapidly turned a once-swing state deep blue.

Latino Decisions estimates that Latinos comprised nearly 40% of the New Mexico electorate on Tuesday, and the new polling shows these voters supported Obama over Romney by 77% to 21%, for a net contribution of 22.2 percentage points to Obama.  Latinos were similarly influential in the U.S. Senate race, supporting Democrat Martin Heinrich over Republican Heather Wilson by a margin of 79% to 20%, helping ensure Heinrich’s victory and keep the Senate in Democratic hands. In both races, an overwhelming show of support from a large number of Latino voters ensured easy victories for Democrats.

While the families of many New Mexico Latinos have lived in the state for generations, the new polling offers further evidence that immigration remains a visceral and personal issue for the state’s Latino community. A majority of voters surveyed (53%) told Latino Decisions that they know someone who is undocumented, and 50% said that President Obama’s decision to grant deferred action to DREAMers this summer made them more enthusiastic about voting for him.

According to Gabriel Sanchez of Latino Decisions, “Our data suggests that unless the Republican party can improve its national brand and outreach to Hispanic voters in New Mexico it may be nearly impossible for them to ever earn New Mexico’s electoral votes in the future. Making this happen will require some major changes to the GOP stance and messaging on immigration, as an amazing 52% of Hispanic voters in New Mexico stated that Romney’s positions on immigration, which included self-deportation, made them less enthusiastic about his campaign.”

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:

New Mexico Latinos Influence the Outcomes of National and State Races

  • In the presidential race, 77% of New Mexico Latinos voted for President Obama, while 21% voted for Mitt Romney.
  • In the U.S. Senate race, 79% of New Mexico Latinos voted for Martin Heinrich, while 20% voted for Heather Wilson.
  • In New Mexico’s U.S. House races, 80% of Latinos voted for the Democratic candidate in their district, while 20% voted for the Republican.

Top Issues for Latino Voters

  • 55% of New Mexico 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 29% who said the same about immigration reform and the DREAM Act, 16% who said health care, and 10% who said education reform.

Immigration Isn’t Just Policy, It’s Personal

  • 53% of Latinos in New Mexico know someone who is undocumented.
  • 69% of New Mexico Latinos said that Obama “truly cares” about the Latino community, 18% said he “didn’t care too much,” and 3% said he “was being hostile.”  Meanwhile,  14% of respondents said that Romney “truly cares” about the Latino community, 44% said he “didn’t care too much,” and 15% said he “was being hostile.”
  •  After hearing about President Obama’s deferred action policy, 50% of respondents said that they were “more enthusiastic” about voting for Obama and 8% 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, 9% of respondents said that they were “more enthusiastic” about Romney and 52% 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,” 21% of respondents said they would be more likely to vote Republican and 15% said they would be less likely.

For the full results from New Mexico, other battleground states, and the national poll, click http://dl.dropbox.com/u/44794321/Latino_Election_Eve_Poll_By_state.pdf.