Reflecting the gradual influence of Latino voters in the United States and raising stakes in the emotionally-charged immigration debate, Latino Decisions polling firm recently announced that it would be releasing weekly polls on the state of Latino voter attitudes during the 2010 election cycle. The first of those weekly polls surveying voters in 21 states suggests growing Latino discontent with the pace of immigration reform.
Said polling director Matt Barreto at the University of Washington in an interview with National Journal’s Hotline: “They are frustrated with both parties, and it would appear from the goings-on in D.C. that they are right – both parties are ignoring or avoiding the issue.”
Fifty-two percent of respondents surveyed claimed they would vote Democrat in the upcoming Congressional elections compared to only 23% for Republicans. What may be worrisome for some strategists, particularly on the Democratic side, is that 25% of respondents were still undecided, most citing concerns over lack of movement on immigration reform.
“Immigration is still a very real and very personal issue for most Latinos,” says Northwestern University political science professor Victoria DeFrancesco-Soto tells Politic365.com. “There are second, third and fourth generation Latinos in the U.S. who connect with this issue, whether it’s because of its impact on family or friends or because of worries over racial profiling.”
Still, Democrats maintain a slight lead over the GOP on immigration reform, as 32% of Latino respondents feel as though the majority party in Congress is working towards passage – compared to 15% who feel the same way about Republicans. Thirty-four percent say Republicans are opposed to any immigration reform. However, one striking and somewhat contradictory aspect of the poll shows 38% of respondents perceiving Democrats as “ignoring” the issue, compared to 36% feeling the same way about Republicans.
“Since the passage of Arizona’s SB1070, immigration has increased in importance to Latino voters, and both political parties have been blamed for the current stalemate,” observes Latino Decisions. “On the one hand, Republicans are seen as the party promoting anti-immigrant policies and face low approval. On the other hand, Democrats are seen as stalling or ignoring the issue and have not been able to energize the Latino electorate.”
Signaling trouble for Democrats in November, only 44% of registered Latino voters are enthusiastic about the Congressional midterms – and 51% are less excited about the Democrats since 2008, even though the party still enjoys a lead amongst Latinos. In another development, the poll also shows Latino approval for President Obama falling by 10% since March 2010, now down to 65%.
Immigration, among other issues, is proving to be a leading topic among gubernatorial candidates in 20 of the 37 states this year with a Governor’s race. Candidates on both sides of the partisan aisle, and in regions other than the West where the illegal immigration problem is most prominent, are proposing a number of anti-immigration policies on their platforms. Despite the fact that illegal immigration has dropped 65% since 2005, the economic downturn is triggering a wave of animosity towards Latino immigrants as most Americans perceive illegal immigration as a significant drain on public services and jobs. As a result, many candidates are suggesting drastic reforms, from cutting off public education and assistance to enhancing border security. Some ranking Republicans, including Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, have also recommended a repeal of the 14th Amendment, which grants automatic citizenship to children born in the U.S.