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New Polls Show Immigration Moves Latino Voters

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Obama’s support dips due to inaction; Whitman, McCain takes hits due to hard line

Washington, DC – As mid-term season heats up, how big an issue is immigration for Latino voters?  Some Republicans try to deny immigration is much of a factor, and some Democrats suspect that activists exaggerate the effect.  A look at recent polling suggests that the skeptics are wrong:

  • New Gallup polling shows that Latinos’ support for President Obama has dropped significantly.  While Obama still retains a 57% job approval rate among Latinos, his support among these voters has declined more than 10 percentage points since the start of 2010, at a time in which his support from the rest of the electorate has remained static.  The decline in Obama’s approval rating is especially pronounced among Spanish-speaking Latinos – a 21-point drop since January.  Gallup notes that the lack of action and progress toward immigration reform is the major driver of this decline in Latino support – “two major drops in Hispanics’ approval of Obama this year — in February and May — coincide with two periods when the president was under fire for not doing enough to promote comprehensive immigration reform in Congress.”  
  • Senator John McCain’s support among Latino voters in Arizona took a huge hit following his embrace of the new Arizona anti-immigrant law, according to Public Policy Polling.  From September of last year to May of this year, McCain dropped a whopping 34% with Latino voters, losing a 17% lead over his opponent to now trailing by 17% among Latinos.  With reports of dramatically increased Latino voter registration in Arizona following the law’s passage, this sets up an interesting general election should McCain’s rightward tilt enable him to survive his primary.  If he does, it is doubtful that McCain will repeat his 2006 record of attracting two-thirds of the state’s Latino voters.
  • In California, Meg Whitman’s hopes of running a general election campaign in the primary was thwarted by her opponent Steve Poizner.  He has made illegal immigration his signature issue and Whitman responded by going hard right, even to the point of using former Governor Pete Wilson, who exploited an anti-immigrant ballot measure to demonize Latinos in 1994 (and win both re-election and infamy).  According to Public Policy Insitute of California, in March – before Whitman ran hard right on immigration – she trailed Jerry Brown 45% to 35% among Latino voters, and with all voters held a lead of 44% to 39%.  In May, after swinging right on immigration, her Latino deficit went from 10% to 32%.  With Latinos now supporting Brown 58% to 26%, Brown now leads Whitman 42% to 37%.

According to Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice, “Latino voters – especially Latino immigrant voters – care deeply about immigration.  For them, it’s about loved ones, family unity, and respect.  To mobilize these voters, Democrats have to fight for comprehensive immigration.  To attract these voters, Republicans have to stand up to the nativist wing of the party.  The fact is that immigration reform is the defining issue for the fastest growing group of new voters in the nation.”

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