Thursday, July 20, 2006

Two new polls look at Hispanic voters

In the past week two new polls were released looking at how Hispanic voters view the political landscape. With a major push underway to register new Latino voters, which could yield 14 mil new voters by 2008, the power of Latinos at the ballot box is becoming a growing concern for both political parties.

The polls, one of 2000 Hispanic adults taken by the Pew Hispanic Center, the other of Spanish-language dominant Hispanic voters by NDN’s Hispanic Strategy Center, are the first polls taken since the congressional debate heated up and the massive immigration rallies took place this past spring.

Both polls showed similar findings.

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According the Pew Hispanic Center:

Latinos are feeling more discriminated against, politically energized and unified following the immigration policy debate and the pro-immigration marches this spring, according to the 2006 National Survey of Latinos conducted by the Pew Hispanic Center.

More than half (54%) of Latinos surveyed say they see an increase in discrimination as a result of the policy debate, and three-quarters (75%) say the debate will prompt many more Latinos to vote in November. Almost two-thirds (63%) think the pro-immigrant marches this year signal the beginning of a new and lasting social movement. And a majority (58%) now believes Hispanics are working together to achieve common goals -- a marked increase from 2002, when 43% expressed confidence in Latino unity.

The 2006 National Survey of Latinos was conducted by telephone among a nationally representative sample of 2,000 Hispanic adults from June 5 to July 3, 2006. The survey has a margin of error of 3.8% for the full sample.

The survey shows that Latinos to some extent are holding the Republican Party responsible for what they perceive to be the negative consequences of the immigration debate, but the political impact of that perception is uncertain. Party affiliation among Latino registered voters has not changed significantly since the spring of 2004. However, the share of Latinos who believe the Republican Party has the best position on immigration has dropped from 25% to 16% in that time, with virtually the entire loss coming among foreign-born Hispanics (28% vs. 12%), who potentially represent an important and growing pool of future voters.

At the same time, the survey provides little solace for the Democratic Party, which showed no significant gains among Hispanic registered voters and which by some measures has lost some support. If anything, the survey shows that a growing number of Latinos are dissatisfied with both of the major parties. For example, one out of every four Hispanics (25%) now believes that neither political party has the best position on immigration issues, more than triple the share (7%) who felt that way just two years ago. Among registered voters, the share picking neither party on immigration has increased from 9% in 2004 to 20% in the current survey.

According to NDN's poll:

In a new national poll of Spanish-language dominant Hispanic voters, NDN’s Hispanic Strategy Center has found that the standing of President Bush and Republicans has dramatically declined with these critical swing voters, potentially wiping out Republican gains made during the Bush years.

While Republicans have suffered a great loss in their standing with this new important electorate, Democrats have made only modest gains and though well-liked are not well defined. To take advantage of this new opening, Democrats will need to invest resources to better define themselves to an electorate very open to hearing from them.

Additionally, the poll offers clear evidence that the immigration debate has increased this community’s participation in the civic life of their nation. More than half of those questioned say the issue will make it more likely that they will vote this year. A remarkable 25% of those surveyed state that they have taken part in recent public demonstrations for better immigration policies. It appears that millions of Hispanics are rising to the “today we march, tomorrow we vote” challenge offered by the leaders of community this year.

The poll, conducted by the New York-based market research firm LatinInsights, surveyed a 600-person national sample of Spanish-dominant Hispanic registered voters. It is the largest poll of Spanish-language dominant Hispanic voters we’ve come across. The poll was paid for by the NDN Political Fund.


About 9% of all American voters today are Hispanic. Of this 9%, about half, or 4-5% of the overall American electorate, is Spanish-language dominant. Spanish-language dominant means that these voters prefer to speak in Spanish, though many of these voters are English competent.



Key Finding 1: Hispanics are disappointed with Bush and unhappy with Republican government. Recent electoral gains made by Bush in this community have been wiped out.

No matter how the numbers are cut, President Bush and the Republicans have seen a dramatic eroding of their standing with Spanish-speaking Hispanic voters.

In 2004 Kerry beat Bush 59%-40% with all Hispanics, and 52%-48% with those Spanish-dominant. In this survey Hispanics confirmed the closeness of the 2004 result. When asked who “did you vote for in 2004?” the result came back 38%-36% Kerry-Bush.

When asked how they would vote if the Presidential election were held today, this group gives Democrats a remarkable 36-point advantage (59%-23%). For Republicans this is a dramatic drop from the 52%-48% Kerry-Bush result with the Spanish-speaking sub-group in 2004.

Bush’s standing with this group has plummeted. In the 2004 cycle, Bush regularly received a 60% favorable rating from Hispanics. In our survey this was reversed, as 38% see him favorably, 58% unfavorably, with 40% very unfavorable towards the President.

Democrats have a very significant advantage in favorability, with a 65%-25% favorable/ unfavorable result. Republicans come in at 41%-51% favorable/unfavorable. For the first time in any Hispanic poll we’ve seen, The Republican Party is seen more favorably than Bush. It is would not be a stretch to now say that President Bush has become a drag on the Republican Party with Hispanics.

A full 61% of our survey group believes the country is headed in the wrong direction. Only 27% say it is headed in the right direction.

On the issue that they see to be of greatest concern to the nation, the Iraq War, 69 % (69-27) are against the current policy, with 48% wanting the U.S. to leave immediately.

On the issue of greatest concern to the Hispanic community as a whole – immigration reform – only 15% believe that the current debate will make it more likely they vote Republican. Overall, the number identifying immigration and discrimination as major issues have increased substantially from previous years.

Remarkably, 86% of Hispanics say that the cost of living has increased in recent years, with 78% saying costs have increased for their family. The economy is cited as the area of 2nd greatest concern to the nation after the Iraq War.

Of 20 major issues tested, Democrats outperform Republicans on 17, including “family values,” “better use of my tax money”and “respects more my religious beliefs.” The loss of faith of Republican government to achieve things of value for the Hispanic community should be a major concern to the governing Party.

Key Finding 2: While making modest gains, Democrats have a lot of work to do.

While Democrats have made modest gains with this group, growing from 52% in 2004 to 59%, most of the movement this year has been away from Bush and the Republicans and not towards Democrats.

In a detailed issue battery, while consistently far ahead of Republicans, Democrats regularly under perform their 59% electoral performance and 65% Party favorability. This indicates that while Democrats are well-regarded by this electorate, they are not well defined.

For example, let’s look at immigration reform. Despite the strong advocacy of Senator Harry Reid and other Democrats for comprehensive immigration reform and the wide coverage of the Republican efforts to deport undocumented Hispanic from the country, more Hispanics say that the immigration debate will not effect how they will vote this November – 41% - than say that that it makes it more likely they will vote Democratic – 36%.

Despite substantial leads in most issue areas, Republicans lead on “national security” and “terrorism,” and the Iraq War though unpopular, is now seen as the single most important issue facing the nation.

A detailed analysis of the 18% of the electorate who are currently undecided about which Party they would vote for if the Presidential election was held today – the next layer of opportunity for Democrats – finds this group very favorable to President Bush and wary of Democrats. While unhappy with the direction of the country, this group will not be an easy one for Democrats to make substantial gains with.

Key Finding 3: The immigration debate has had a tremendous impact with these voters, and will increase their turnout this fall.

This group now believes immigration reform is now the most important problem facing the Hispanic community, with 37% choosing that option, and 15% choosing a related issue, discrimination. Taken together, these two issues are seen as the most important concerns by 52% of those surveyed. The next highest issue is education with 8%. In the 2004 cycle, immigration rarely ranked in the 1st tier of concerns of Hispanics voters.

By a margin of 62% to 28%, Hispanics are in favor of immigration reform.

By more than a 2-1 margin (36%-15%), Hispanics believe the immigration debate makes it more likely that they will vote for Democrats in the fall.

In a remarkable show of civic participation, 25% say they participated in a recent rally or demonstration for a better immigration policy. 54% of all those surveyed say they are more likely to vote this fall because of the debate.


While both polls show eroding support for Republicans, Democrats have yet to turn this general dissatisfaction into strong support. Even on the immigration issue, which has fueled much of the Latino discontent with Republicans, Democrats have not been able to gain considerable support, with a significant number of respondents dissatisfied with both parties' positions.

Obviously the Democrats need to start to differentiate themselves more effectively on this issue. The problem is the Democrats have not staked out a strong enough position on the immigration issue. Although the Senate bill is far superior to the terrible House one, the rhetoric out of the Democrats has been somewhat weak. They also capitulated too many times to keep the bill alive in the Senate negotiations. The Hagel/Martinez compromise with its three tiered system, the English language provisions, the smaller wall, all these things sent mixed messages.

The Latino community has been galvanized by the immigration debate, seeing in it the underlying racism that permeates their lives. Yet the Democrats, have been forced to play politics on the issue, walking a line between the two warring wings of the Republican Party. Latinos see the Democrats as unable to take a firm stance on this issue. They watched as the Senate negotiations took place and Democrats constantly caved. The unholy alliance between the Democrats and Bush's corporate wing doesn't help the matter. The Democrats look more like followers than leaders on this, and as such can't be fully trusted to fight for true immigrants rights, or stand up to right-wing racism. I think the fear is that Democrats seem to be a "voting for immigration reform before voting against it" sort of thing.

If they would abandon Bush’s guest worker program in favor of a permanent worker program whereby employers who had jobs they couldn’t fill could sponsor foreign workers to become legal residents or citizens, rather than “temporary guests” to be discarded and replaced periodically, That would put a further wedge between the Republicans, while setting themselves up as a viable alternative for Latinos. If the Democrats were to get out in front of this issue and REALLY hold a firm ground, the Republicans would truely implode on this issue. Instead of constantly compromising to help the Republicans reach agreements, they should stand firm, not give an inch and make Bush and his wing move either further away from the right wing xenophobes, or jump right in bed with them. Right now the Democrats are walking some sort of middle ground that lets the Republicans work both sides of the fence. Bush should be forced to chose, My bet is he would go with the xenophobes if he can get some sort of temporary worker plan that kicks out all the current undocumented and assures that the temps get kicked out when their times up also.

Bush has sent a lot of mixed messages as far as guest workers go. In one breath he says they must leave when their term of service is up, and in the other talks about the Senate plans “path towards citizenship”. This has allowed him and the rest of the corporate wing to play both sides of the fence.

If the Democrats could force a situation where they can come down firmly on the side of immigrants, while the Republicans try to sell the Tancredo plan, all they'd have to do is offer up a reasonable alternative with worker protections, minimum wage increases, quota changes, etc. and they'd have a winning ticket with both immigrants and the electorate in general.

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