New poll indicates GOP will have trouble garnering Latino vote
There are a number of factors standing in between the GOP and the coveted Latino vote in 2012. (Flickr: Cnibert)
A Latino Decisions/impreMedia poll released Monday reveals significant roadblocks to Republicans picking up a greater share of the Latino vote in 2012. A trio of factors are working against the GOP as it seeks to boost its standing with Latino voters, two thirds of whom supported President Obama in 2008.
First of all, the GOP’s brand appears to be toxic with Latinos heading into next year’s elections. Seventy-three percent of Latino voters say that the Republican Party either ignores or is openly hostile to Latino voters. And Democrats are improving their image with Latinos, 52 percent say that the party has done a good job of outreach, a number that cracked the 50-percent mark for the first time since Feb. 2011.
Second: a major area in which the GOP has traditionally appealed to Latinos, religion and moral values, has little resonance in this election. Seventy-five percent say they think about economy and jobs when voting, compared to only 14 percent who cite moral issues such as abortion, family values, and same-sex marriage. President George W. Bush found success reaching out to Latinos in 2004 using family values in his messaging toward the community, but appears Republicans won’t enjoy that luxury in 2012.
And third: Florida Sen. Marco Rubio (R), whom some Republicans view as the key to unlocking the Latino vote, doesn’t seem poised to have that effect in this election. A 46 percent plurality of Latino voters say his presence on the GOP ticket won’t affect their vote. Rubio has said he would decline an invitation to serve as running mate on the Republican presidential ticket in 2012.
But GOP strategists have argued that the party would only need to pick up a sliver of the Latino vote from Obama in 2012 in order to turn the tide in their favor.
Even if the Cuban-American Rubio isn’t the transformational figure some might imagine, the poll suggests that he could help the Republican nominee win the Sunshine State’s crucial 29 electoral votes.
Fifty-six percent of Latino Republicans say Rubio’s presence on the ticket could make them more inclined to vote for their party’s nominee. That could go a long way in Rubio’s home state, where the politically-influential bloc of Cuban-American Republicans could push the state toward the right, and thereby hand the state to the Republicans after Obama won it in 2008.
If Rubio’s not on the ticket, Republicans believe that the poor economy will be enough sink Obama with Latinos. Seventy-five percent of Latino voters surveyed said that the economy and job would dictate they way they vote. Although most Latinos don’t blame Obama for the poor economy, enough might take it out on him at the voting booth, Republicans say.
“With the Latino unemployment rate at 11.4 percent, almost three points higher than the national average, Latinos have seen how President Obama’s economic policies have disproportionately hurt them,” said Republican National Committee spokesperson Alexandra Franceschi. “Come 2012, Obama will be campaigning on his record of high unemployment and economic instability.”
President Obama’s support with Latinos remains strong: his job approval is at 67 percent and last month’s Univision News poll showed him performing very well in head-to-head match-ups against his GOP rivals. But the president is staring at a much less enthusiastic group of Latino voters heading in 2012, suggesting he could suffer from lower turnout on Election Day next November.
Only 44 percent of Latino voters say they are very enthusiastic about voting in 2012 and Latino Republicans are more enthusiastic about voting than Obama’s Latino supporters by about a 10-point margin.
At this point in the race, compared to 2008, there is “a much lower level of engagement and interest on the part of Latinos voters,” said Latino Decisions’s Matthew Barreto during a conference call with reporters, especially young and first-time voters.
Latinos could be a make-or-break constituency in 2012 for Obama in swing states like Colorado, New Mexico, and Nevada, in addition to key states not traditionally thought of as having large Latino populations, such as Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Ohio.
Republicans face an uphill road covered in ice and snow when it comes to reaching Latino voters. The danger for Obama, it appears, isn’t if Latinos vote Republican. It’s if they choose to stay home.
This post was updated at 6:13 PM