Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Latino Voters, Immigration Reform, and the 2010 Elections 

New Polling Highlights How the DREAM Act and Broader Immigration Reform Debates Influence Political Choices by Latinos

Denver, CO - As Congress breaks and the 2010 campaigns heat up, political observers are wondering how the immigration debate in Washington, DC and in Colorado will impact the mid-term elections. Tracking polling by Latino Decisions is showing small but clear movement toward the Democrats, in the wake of a September debate on the DREAM Act in the Senate. However, a number of Latinos still feel that the Democratic Party has taken a hands-off approach to the issue, with potentially big implications for Colorado races
According to Julien Ross, Executive Director of the Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition, "The immigration debate and both parties' handling of the issue is clearly having a major effect on Latino mobilization efforts. The big question for 2010 will be whether Latinos' recent uptick in enthusiasm for Democrats and continued view of Republicans as anti-immigrant supersedes traditionally low levels of Latino turnout in mid-term elections, and lingering frustration from Latino voters that immigration reform hasn't been more of a priority in Congress."

Jessie Ulibarri, Colorado State Director of Mi Familia Vota, discussed efforts to mobilize Latino voters, including "low-propensity" voters in Colorado. "Our community wants results on immigration reform. The Latino community knows that our vote is our voice - and if we don't exercise our vote and hold elected officials accountable, some politicians will continue to attack our community."

Also, Matt Barreto of polling firm Latino Decisions said, "Latino voters are very interested in seeing immigration reform move forward and the level of Latino support for Democratic candidates is still below the self-identified percentage of Latinos who are Democrats. However, possibly because of the DREAM Act, Democrats are slowly recovering ground that they had lost - not to Republicans, but to unenthusiastic and undecided Latino voters."

Barreto's assessment comes as new polling released from Latino Decisions in twenty-one key states found that 72% of Latino voters think the Senate "should have passed" the DREAM Act as an amendment to the Defense authorization bill, while only 17% think the Republican Party's successful efforts to block it were "the right thing to do."

The tracking polls show several important developments since September 20th - immediately before the DREAM debate in the Senate. Latino voters now express a higher likelihood to vote in November, have increased their support for a generic Democratic candidate, and are more likely to believe that Democrats are working to pass immigration reform compared to the pre-DREAM debate polling. Meanwhile, compared to the September 20th poll, Latino voters are now less likely to favor a generic Republican candidate and to believe that Republicans are working to pass immigration reform, while more likely to believe Republicans are trying to block reform.

While 40% of Latino voters say Republicans are blocking reform, the same number also say Democrats are ignoring or avoiding the issue. With Democrats in close races in a number of states and districts with Latino voters, this could hurt the Democratic Party, as the Latino Decisions polling shows immigration to be the second most important concern of Latinos (after the economy). See the table below for a comparison of these questions from September 20 to today. Full results available here.