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Second Installment of Latino Voter Poll: Does Sen. Jeff Sessions Speak for Himself, Or Also the GOP?

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This week the U.S. Senate began debating immigration reform on the Senate Floor. On a press call/webinar today, Latino Decisions and America’s Voice released the second installment of the latest in a series of tracking polls – all of which underscore the political imperative of passing immigration reform.

Sylvia Manzano, Senior Analyst, Latino Decisions said, “Support for immigration reform with a pathway to citizenship is so strong that over half of Latino voters could be up for grabs (in terms of party vote) if the Republican Party supports the Senate bill. Congressional words and actions are taken seriously and shape how Latinos view their electoral options. There is consistent evidence that immigration has become a party defining and mobilizing issue for Latino voters.”

Immigration continues to be the top issue Latino voters want addressed, even more so than the economy/jobs; it is also a motivating issue, with 34% of Latino voters more likely to vote for the GOP if they work to pass immigration reform and 59% less likely to vote for the GOP if they try to block it.

“Look, a roadmap to citizenship shouldn’t be a tough issue. Union members support it overwhelmingly. Independents support it overwhelmingly. It’s a political no-brainer. But the Republican Party just nominated someone for president who attacked 47% of Americans. Working people cannot take no-brainers for granted from Republicans. That’s why we have a campaign across the country to fight for true immigration reform,” said Mike Podhorzer, Political Director, AFL-CIO.

Yesterday the Senate voted on the motion to proceed with the Gang of 8’s bipartisan immigration bill on the Senate floor. The immigrant community was watching and waiting to hold accountable the elected officials that voted No on the motion.

“We are puzzled and outraged by Senator Mark Kirk’s (R-IL) vote.  His vote demonstrates how out of touch he is with his constituents, and may cause permanent damage between the Illinois Republican Party and Latino and immigrant voters.  ‘What was he thinking?’” said Lawrence Benito, ICIRR’s CEO.  “The vote is an indication that Senator Kirk is not interested in having a Senate debate about immigration reform. Instead, he chose to play politics with the ‘optics’ on the border and side with the extremists in his party.  By siding with the most extreme in his party, Senator Kirk shows how out of touch he is with Illinois business, women, faith, labor and community leaders.”

As we move along the debate Latino voters are paying attention to what Democrats and Republicans are doing when it comes to immigration. But they are also paying attention to what they’re saying.

Among some more of the poll’s highlights:

  • Republicans stand to gain a significant amount of Latino votes if they work to pass immigration reform. When asked whether they would be more likely or less likely to consider voting Republican 26% more Latino voters would vote Republican if they work to pass reform than if they work to kill the bill. Similarly, 46% more Latino voters say they would be less likely to vote Republican if Republicans work to kill the bill instead of passing it. This gives the GOP an incredible opportunity to reach out to the Latino vote with 72 potential swing points on the line.
  • Republicans favorability would increase if they pass immigration reform, even among those who disagree with Republicans on other issues. 52% of Hispanics say that even if they disagree with the GOP on other issues they would be more favorable to the Republican Party if they pass immigration reform, including 55% of prior GOP voters, 47% of Democrats and 60% of Independents.
  • Anti-immigrant rhetoric doesn’t just hurt the individual elected officials’ approval rating among Latino voters, it also hurts their party. When read pro/con immigration statements made by the three Hispanic Senators and Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL), voters looked poorly upon not only individual senators but also their party for anti-immigrant stances.  The reserve was also true in that senators who espoused pro-immigrant positions not only helped themselves but also their party in the eyes of Latino voters.
  • If Congress doesn’t pass immigration reform, Democrats would significantly benefit from Obama taking executive action to provide status for undocumented immigrants, and this would further damage the GOP. When asked how they would feel towards Republicans if they block immigration reform in Congress and President Obama takes executive action to provide legal status for undocumented immigrants, over 1/3 of respondents said they would feel much less favorable towards Republicans. In the same scenario, 50% respondents said they would feel much more favorable towards Obama and the Democrats.

Said Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice:

The data speaks for itself.  Republicans have a tremendous amount to gain if they work to pass immigration reform with a path to citizenship, and they have even more to lose if they block it.  The data also shows that if Republicans block reform and President Obama steps in and uses executive action to protect undocumented immigrants, the GOP will be toast.  The way forward politically couldn’t be clearer. The moment of truth for the Republican Party is at hand.