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New Poll Shows High Expectation of Hispanics for Immigration Reform

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Voters in 13 States Document Importance of Immigration Issue, Highlight Corroded GOP Brand Image

The results of a new poll of Hispanic voters in thirteen key states shows the importance of comprehensive immigration reform to Hispanic voters, underscores their belief that immigration reform should be a priority this year, and highlights the challenges and opportunities for both Republicans and Democrats on this important issue.

The poll, conducted by Bendixen and Associates, was the topic of a telephonic press conference today featuring pollster Sergio Bendixen, whom Real Clear Politics recently called “one of the most influential people in American politics,” and immigration experts Eliseo Medina, International Executive Vice President of Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice.

“Even though support for immigration reform has always been high among Hispanic voters, this poll clearly indicates that we now have a much higher ‘intensity of support level’ for the issue within this electorate,” said Sergio Bendixen. “The divisive tone and demagogic rhetoric of the anti-immigrant movement in America continues to politicize Hispanic Americans and to unite them in favor of a new immigration policy.”

The poll showed:

Latino Voters Trust Obama on Immigration Issues and Expect Him to Move Forward on Immigration Reform as a Year One Priority: 72 percent of respondents think President Obama will keep his campaign promise and move a comprehensive immigration reform bill forward before the end of his first year in office. Notably, 83 percent of respondents thought that President Obama “will do the right thing” on immigration vs. only 10 percent who thought he “will not do the right thing” (7 percent don’t know).

While Latino Voters Trust Obama on Immigration, They Are Less Trusting of Congressional Democrats and Wholly Suspicious of Congressional Republicans: 83 percent of respondents trust President Obama to “do the right thing” on immigration, compared to 69 percent trust in Democrats in Congress and 23 percent trust in Congressional Republicans.

Latino Voters Think Obama Should Tackle Immigration Reform Alongside the Economic Recovery: 69 percent of voters supported President Obama working on both the economic recovery and immigration reform in 2009 while only 29 percent thought he should focus on the economic recovery and put off immigration reform until after the midterm elections.

Immigration is an Intensely Personal Issue: 82 percent of respondents called the immigration issue personally important (59 percent “very important”) and 69 percent said they personally have an undocumented friend, family member, or other acquaintance.

A Candidate’s Immigration Position is a Threshold Issue: 87 percent of respondents said they would not consider voting for a Congressional candidate who was in favor of forcing most of the undocumented population to leave the country. While 56 percent of respondents called the weak economy the biggest problem facing the nation, a sensible immigration position is clearly a prerequisite for candidates hoping to attract support from Hispanic voters.

The Divisive Rhetoric of the Immigration Debate Has Corroded the GOP Brand Image: Nearly two-thirds of respondents (64 percent) agreed that during the last two years, discrimination against Hispanics had increased because of the negative tone and the rhetoric of the immigration debate. Many respondents assign blame towards the GOP. By a 71 percent to 11 percent margin, respondents believed that the Democratic Party best represented the opinion of the Hispanic community on immigration issues vs. the Republican Party. Additionally, only 23 percent of respondents thought that Republicans “will do the right thing” on immigration issues, while a whopping 60 percent thought Republicans “will not do the right thing” (17 percent don’t know).

Eliseo Medina, International Executive Vice President of SEIU, said, “What this poll shows clearly is that Hispanic voters are engaged politically and plan to be even more engaged in the future. After a historic election and record participation in 2008, voters are looking to President Obama and Congressional leaders to live up to their promises, and hold accountable those who break their word. They are tired of right-wing candidates using Hispanics as scapegoats for short-term political gain. They are ready to cast their votes in 2010 with candidates who stand with them and for comprehensive immigration reform.”

“Hispanic voters expect that immigration reform is on its way,” said Frank Sharry. “The results also highlight the imperatives for both parties – Democrats need to deliver on their electoral promises and Republicans need to repent and get right on this issue in order to change their brand image.”

For a copy of the polling results, visit: http://www.americasvoiceonline.org/survey