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New Poll Reveals Immigration Top Issue Driving Latino Voting

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New Latino Decisions/impreMedia Poll Debunks Claims by Rep. Lamar Smith that Latinos Are Flocking to GOP Anti-Immigrant Agenda

Polling released today from Latino Decisions and impreMedia shows that Latino voters prioritize immigration, and do so because they view the issue through a personal lens.  The findings hold important lessons for both political parties as the 2012 cycle begins.  Among the key findings:

  • Immigration the top priority among Latinos:  When asked the single most important issue facing the Latino community and important for Congress and the President to address, 51% of respondents answered immigration.  The economy and jobs comes in second place at a combined 35%. 
  • Latinos’ personal connection to the immigration debate: 53% of poll respondents reported personally knowing an undocumented person, whether a relative, friend, or co-worker.  Additionally, 25% of respondents reported personally knowing someone who “faced detention or deportation for immigration reasons.”
  • Latinos overwhelmingly favor administrative reform: Poll respondents strongly support executive action in favor of targeted members of the community: 74% support “stopping the deportation of any undocumented immigrant who has not committed a crime, and is married to a U.S. citizen or legal resident;” 66% support “stopping the deportation of any undocumented immigrant high school and college age youth who has not committed any crime;” and 60% support “stopping the deportation of any parent who has not committed a crime and has children under the age of 18 living in the U.S.”
  • Both parties have work to do:  The poll also found that by a 65% – 19% margin, Latino voters trust President Obama and Democrats more “to make the right decisions when it comes to immigration policy” compared with Republicans.  Yet the news wasn’t all good for Democrats, as 43% of respondents said Democrats in the U.S. Congress were “ignoring or avoiding” immigration reform vs. only 33% who said they were “working on passing” immigration reform.

According to Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice Education Fund, “These are remarkable findings.  It shows that immigration is the top priority among Latinos, and why this is the case.  This issue is personal.  It’s about family, future and full acceptance.  Republicans should look at these findings and recognize the real damage that their anti-immigrant policies are doing to their ability to compete for and connect with Latino voters.  Clearly, the GOP must change its ways or continue to drive the fastest growing group of new voters in the nation into the arms of their opponents.  And Democrats should be concerned about the growing disillusionment among Latino voters regarding the party’s commitment to change in the area of immigration policy.  While they’re in much better political position than Republicans, they must deliver on their promises of immigration reforms if they expect Latino voters to deliver for them.”

The finding that Latino voters’ prioritize immigration contrasts sharply with the claims of leading anti-immigrant organizations and their lawmaker allies.  The Center for Immigration Studies (CIS), the “think tank” for the nativist movement, and Rep. Lamar Smith, the hardline Chairman of the Judiciary Committee who is committed to expelling and deporting as many of the 11 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S. as possible — seem to fancy themselves as experts on Latino voting behavior and their views on immigration.  A recent CIS analysis asserted “immigration is not one of the top issues for Hispanics,” while Rep. Smith took to the pages of Politico to assert that Republicans’ mass-deportation policies would have little political consequence.  Wrote Smith, “Time and again, American voters — including Hispanics — have defeated amnesty attempts, including the 2007 comprehensive immigration reform legislation.  Contrary to the claims made by some, the record shows that Republicans will continue to attract Hispanic voters…” 

The findings in this poll strongly suggest otherwise.  As La Opinión editorialized about the new poll, “Latino voters have very real and concrete concerns about the absence of an immigration policy that addresses our times…From the results of this poll, conducted 18 months before the upcoming presidential election, we can infer that the debate on immigration will remain at the forefront of the interests of Latino voters.  The political party and/or candidate who focuses on this concern will have the opportunity to gain the support of voters who have shown they are swing independents. Nevertheless, because of their direct experience with immigration, Hispanic voters will not tolerate ambiguous positions [nor] aggressive and punitive action against the undocumented.”

Link to Latino Decisions/impreMedia June 2011 polling: http://faculty.washington.edu/mbarreto/ld/June9_banners.html

America’s Voice Education Fund — Harnessing the power of American voices and American values to win common sense immigration reform.