Latino voters rate economy, healthcare over immigration, but Obama still leads big
Romney’s standing with Latinos is “the weakest position … of any presidential contender since 1996.”
A new USA Today/Gallup poll released on Monday shows that Latino voters see economic issues and healthcare of greater importance than immigration, the issue that gets the most play in the press when it comes to Latinos and politics.
All U.S. Latinos see healthcare, immigration, and unemployment as being equally important. But narrow the sample down to Latino registered voters, and the importance of immigration falls.
It’s not news that Latino voters believe that healthcare and the economy are more important than immigration. Politicians mention this in speeches to Latino groups all of the time. It makes sense; in order to be a voter, you must be a citizen, thus the nation’s immigration system doesn’t necessarily impact your daily life.
On the surface, this statistic would appear to benefit the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, Mitt Romney, who sought to erase his image as an immigration hardliner while downplaying the issue in favor of the economy. But that’s not the case.
President Obama leads Romney 66-25 percent, very similar to the margin by which he won Latino voters in 2008. USA Today reports Romney’s standing with Latinos is “the weakest position … of any presidential contender since 1996.”
So, what gives?
Obama leads big among Latinos who care first and foremost about the economy, not just immigration. For example, he wins 61 percent of Latino voters who care most about economic growth and 66 percent among those who care about unemployment. Seventy percent of Latinos who care about healthcare favor Obama and the same percentage among those who care most about immigration.
Separate polling conducted by Latino Decisions shows how immigration is indeed a powerful voting issue. A candidate’s stance legislation such as the DREAM Act affects the likelihood of how majorities of Latinos will vote. President Obama’s decision to halt deportations of up to 1.4 million young undocumented immigrants who would be impacted by the DREAM Act made his supporters more enthusiastic about his reelection campaign (the poll was taken before he took that action).
The poll reminds us also that Latinos aren’t a monolithic voting bloc. It suggests that Obama’s action could have the biggest affect on Latino voters born outside the U.S. or those who have at least one parent born in another country, who rate immigration twice as important as those who were born in the U.S. and also have parents who were born here.
Second-generation Latino voters care about immigration less and look more like a swing constituency than immigrant and first-generation voters.
“Romney does twice as well among second-generation Latinos compared with immigrants. Among immigrant voters, just 18% support Romney. That number rises to 22% among the children of at least one immigrant parent and to 35% among Hispanics whose families have been in the U.S. for two generations or more,” USA Today reports.
And when it comes to the economy, Latinos don’t appear to be buying Romney’s central argument that Obama is to blame for the fact they have borne the brunt of the recession, a fact that can’t sit well with the GOP candidate.