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

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Latino Voters Increasingly Important to Electoral Success in Virginia and Immigration Issue is Both Important and Personal to Them 

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

In Virginia the new polling shows Latino voters supported Obama over Romney by 66% to 31%, for a net contribution of 0.8 percentage points to Obama (based on Latino Decisions’ estimate that Latinos comprised 2.3% of the Virginia electorate). Latinos were similarly influential in the closely-contested Senate race, in which they supported Democrat Tim Kaine over Republican George Allen by an overwhelming margin of 70% to 29%, helping ensure Kaine’s victory and keeping the Senate in Democratic hands. While the Latino vote did not single-handedly win the race for either candidate, these voters are a key part of the demographic transformation that has made the state viable for Democrats to begin with – and their influence as a growing voter bloc in a swing state will only grow with time.

In an article today, the New York Times examines Prince William County in northern Virginia as a microcosm of the Obama campaign’s winning coalition, and writes that “In Prince William, as elsewhere, the biggest challenge for Republicans may be among Hispanic voters.” This is true in part because the Latino community in Prince William County has recent experience with local anti-immigrant policies after the county passed a landmark anti-immigrant law in 2007.

Immigration is a personal issue for Latinos throughout the state: the new poll shows that 57% of Latino voters here know someone who is undocumented. Forty-two percent of Virginia Latinos told Latino Decisions that immigration reform and the DREAM Act are the most important issues facing Latinos that politicians should address – the third highest percentage in the eleven states polled, behind only Arizona and North Carolina, both of which have also had recent experience with anti-immigrant policies at the local level.

Michael McDonald of Latino Decisions said, “I’m struck by the fact that after Florida, republicans did the best in terms of the presidential election among Latinos in the state of Virginia. This suggests to me that Latinos can be swayed and the republican party would be wise to consider policies on immigration and other issues of importance to the Latino community. They’re not a monolithic group so there is an opportunity there for republicans if they wish to take it.”

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:

Virginia Latinos Influence the Outcomes of National and State Races

  • In the presidential race, 66% of Virginia Latinos voted for President Obama, while 31% voted for Mitt Romney.
  • In the U.S. Senate race, 70% of Virginia Latinos voted for Tim Kaine, while 29% voted for George Allen.
  • In Virginia’s U.S. House races, 67% of Latinos voted for the Democratic candidate in their district, while 33% voted for the Republican.

Top Issues for Latino Voters

  • 55% of Virginia 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 42% who said the same about immigration reform and the DREAM Act, 15% who said education reform, and 10% who said health care.

Immigration Isn’t Just Policy, It’s Personal

  • 57% of Latinos in Virginia know someone who is undocumented.
  • 53% of Virginia Latinos said that Obama “truly cares” about the Latino community, 31% said he “didn’t care too much,” and 3% said he “was being hostile.”  Meanwhile,  18% of respondents said that Romney “truly cares” about the Latino community, 54% said he “didn’t care too much,” and 13% said he “was being hostile.”
  •  After hearing about President Obama’s deferred action policy, 48% of respondents said that they were “more enthusiastic” about voting for Obama and 11% 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, 8% 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,” 28% of respondents said they would be more likely to vote Republican and 9% said they would be less likely.

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