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

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Huge Latino Support for Democrats in Presidential, Senate and House Races Shows Texas May Not Be Red for Long 

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

In Texas, the new polling shows Latino voters supported Obama over Romney by a dramatic 70% to 29%, for a net contribution of 10.6 percentage points to Obama (based on Latino Decisions’ estimate that Latinos comprised 26.6% of the Texas electorate). In the Senate race, where high profile Latino Republican, Ted Cruz, was running, Latinos still supported Democrat Paul Sadler over Cruz by a margin of 65% to 35%, showing once again that Republicans cannot win over Latinos merely by running Latino candidates. The issues do matter.

According to Frank Sharry of America’s Voice Education Fund, “The ‘Lamar Smith strategy’ cost his party the election.  The GOP’s lurch to the right on immigration destroyed their chances of re-taking the White House and the Senate. Meanwhile, Obama leaned into the issue by protecting DREAMers, a move that mobilized Latino voters and did not hurt him with swing voters. This may not have tipped the scales yet in a conservative state like Texas, but nationally, the 2012 election is a game-changer. It produced a mandate for immigration reform and the Congressional delegation from Texas should take notice.”

While Republicans remained victorious in the U.S. Senate and presidential races, the quickly growing proportion of the Latino vote and its now vast support for Democrats indicates that demographic transformation might make the state competitive sooner than previously thought. As recently as 2004, Texas Latinos split their votes between John Kerry (50%) and George W. Bush (49%). While they supported Obama in both 2008 and 2012, the margin increased substantially over the last four years – as did Latinos’ share of the state electorate (from 20% in 2008 to 26.6% in 2012). As a result, Latinos almost doubled their net contribution to Democrats from 5.6 percentage points in 2008 to 10.6 percentage points in 2012.  If these trends continue, San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro’s prediction today that Texas will become a swing state as soon as 2018 may be correct. In fact, the shift can already be seen in the 23rd Congressional District, where Democrat Pete Gallego defeated Republican Francisco “Quico” Canseco on Tuesday.

Helping drive the shift toward Democrats among Texas Latinos is their personal connection to the immigration issue. Even in a state where many Latino families have lived for generations, 58% of Latino voters told Latino Decisions they know someone who is an undocumented immigrant. Fifty-nine percent of them said that President Obama’s decision to grant deferred action to DREAMers made them more enthusiastic about voting for him, while 55% said that Mitt Romney’s support for “self-deportation” made them less enthusiastic about his candidacy.

According to Sylvia Manzano of Latino Decisions, ” Texas Latino voters demonstrated strong support for President Obama, where he won 70% of the Latino vote.  We also find solid support for the larger policy agenda he has championed over the last four years. Unfortunately the Texas Latino electorate is under-mobilized, a mere 25% were contacted by campaigns and community groups. To place that point in context, over 40% were contacted in Colorado, North Carolina, New Mexico, Nevada, Ohio, and Virginia.”

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 2012 election eve survey is available here.

Among the poll’s findings:

Texas Latinos Influence National and State Races

  • In the presidential race, 70% of Texas Latinos voted for President Obama, while 29% voted for Mitt Romney.
  •  In the U.S. Senate race, 65% of Texas Latinos voted for Paul Sadler, while 35% voted for Ted Cruz.
  • In Texas’ U.S. House races, 71% of Latinos voted for the Democratic candidate in their district, while 29% voted for the Republican. Their votes helped lead Democratic U.S. House candidate Pete Gallego to defeat incumbent Francisco “Quico” Canseco (R) in Texas’ closely-contested 23rd District.

Top Issues for Latino Voters

  • 54% of Texas 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 said education reform, and 8% who said health care.

Immigration Isn’t Just Policy, It’s Personal

  • 58% of Latinos in Texas know someone who is undocumented.
  • 64% of Texas Latinos said that Obama “truly cares” about the Latino community, 25% said he “didn’t care too much,” and 2% said he “was being hostile.”  Meanwhile,  17% of respondents said that Romney “truly cares” about the Latino community, 56% said he “didn’t care too much,” and 15% said he “was being hostile.”
  • After hearing about President Obama’s deferred action policy, 59% 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, 7% of respondents said that they were “more enthusiastic” about Romney and 55% 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,” 36% of respondents said they would be more likely to vote Republican.

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

According to Jose Ibarra of the National Council on La Raza, “As a border state, certainly immigration has always been a critical issue to the Latino electorate in Texas.  As our state’s Latino population continues to grow and diversify geographically, we hope that we will be able to increase our influence on pushing for comprehensive immigration reform.  NCLR has worked with our partner groups on the ground to ensure that we are helping to increase citizen participation in the electoral process—ultimately that is what will make the difference.”