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

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Latino Voters Deliver Nevada for Obama With Their Overwhelming Support 

The 2012 elections have demonstrated that Latino and new citizen voters are changing politics in Nevada and around the country. Newly-released election-eve polling from impreMedia and Latino Decisions — which surveyed Latino voters nationally and in eleven states, including Nevada — shows how the candidates’ positions on immigration and other top Latino issues were pivotal in determining the election results.

In Nevada, the new polling shows Latino voters supported Obama over Romney by an historic 80% to 17%, for a net contribution of 9.3 percentage points to Obama (based on Latino Decisions’ estimate that Latinos accounted for 14.7% of the total Nevada electorate). This contribution was larger than Obama’s total margin of victory of 6.6% in Nevada — meaning that the Latino vote determined the outcome of the election here. Latinos made a similarly strong statement in the closely-contested Senate race, in which they supported Democrat Shelly Berkley over Republican incumbent Dean Heller by a margin of 79% to 20%, though Berkley was unable to pull through for other reasons.  In House races, 79% of Latino voters told Latino Decisions they voted for the Democratic candidate in their district, while 21% supported the Republican candidate. This strong margin of support for Democrats was likely a decisive factor in Nevada’s 4th District, where Latinos represent 23% of the voting-age population and where Democrat Steven Hosford has defeated Republican Danny Tarkanian 50%-42%.

In a state that only a few years ago was considered solidly red, Latinos are rapidly changing the face of which candidates and issues will prevail in Nevada. Not only is immigration the second most important issue to Nevada Latinos, behind jobs and the economy, but it’s also clearly a personal issue for these voters. Nevada ties California in having the largest percentage of voters who say they have a friend, family member or co-worker who is undocumented, at 67 percent. Thus, immigration and the DREAM Act are not abstract concepts, but issues where Nevada Latinos have a lot at stake. Similarly, they showed a 61 percent increase in enthusiasm for President Obama based on his June policy announcement that he would stop deporting immigrant youth and allow them to apply for legal work permits.

According to David Damore, Professor of Political Science at University of Nevada Las Vegas, “Once again in Nevada, you see the electoral repercussions of the alienation of Latino voters by the Republican Party.”

Key components of the poll’s findings are below.  Latino Decisions’ Nevada poll shows greater support for Obama than the National Exit Poll, but this is not surprising.  In 2010, the National Exit Poll underestimated Nevada Latinos’ support for Democrats by almost 20 percentage points in the gubernatorial race, and by even more in the Senate race (leading to their infamous claim that Sharron Angle had won 30% of the Latino vote).  Latino Decisions’ 2010 election-eve poll, on the other hand, predicted the actual results from Latino precinct returns within a few percentage points.  In contrast, 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:

Nevada Latinos Influence the Outcomes of National and State Races

  • In the presidential race, 80% of Nevada Latinos voted for President Obama, while 17% voted for Mitt Romney.
  • In the U.S. Senate race, 79% of Nevada Latinos voted for Shelly Berkley, while 20% voted for Dean Heller.
  • In Nevada’s U.S. House races, 79% of Latinos voted for the Democratic candidate in their district, while 21% voted for the Republican. Their votes appear to have helped Democratic U.S. House candidate Steven Horsford win in the closely contested 4th District.

Top Issues for Latino Voters

  • 54% of Nevada 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 40% who said the same about immigration reform and the DREAM Act, 19% who named education reform, and 8% who named health care.

Immigration Isn’t Just Policy, It’s Personal

  • 67% of Latino voters in Nevada know someone who is undocumented.
  • 68% of Nevada Latinos said that Obama “truly cares” about the Latino community, 18% said he “didn’t care too much,” and 6% described him as “hostile.”  Meanwhile,  12% of respondents said that Romney “truly cares” about the Latino community, 60% said he “didn’t care too much,” and 19% said he “was hostile.”
  • After hearing about President Obama’s deferred action policy, 61% of respondents said that they were “more enthusiastic” about voting for Obama and 5% 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, 5% of respondents said that they were “more enthusiastic” about Romney and 61% 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,” 34% of respondents said they would be more likely to vote Republican and 10% said they would be less likely.

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

According to Fernando Romero, Regional Coordinator for the National Council of La Raza, “In Nevada, we have seen an even greater level of enthusiasm among Latinos this presidential election cycle then we did in 2008.  Although jobs, the economy and education are certainly issues of high concern and interest in our Las Vegas Latino community, immigration is the high priority issue among Hispanics and helped dictate how they voted.  We believe the  level of participation we’ve seen this election cycle will only grow, and it is certainly what NCLR has worked towards in the community—sustained civic involvement and increased electoral participation among Latinos.”