The Latino Electorate at 100 Days: Obama Popular, but want to see action on immigration

Action on immigration this year is identified as “extremely important” by 51% of Latino registered voters polled on the occasion of the President’s 100th day in office. This compares with only 40% just last November, when Latino voters supported the president by more than 2-1 against his Republican rival. Another 23% now describe it as “very” important. At that time, Hispanic registered voters appeared willing to give the new administration some time to deliver on the promised changes but, perhaps sensing an unusual opportunity and the president’s own recent statements on the matter, Latino voters appear to see action on immigration as increasingly urgent.

When presented with a comprehensive reform plan that included both tougher broader enforcement as well as an adjustment of status for undocumented workers already here accompanied by penalties and a waiting period, a full 75% supported this approach, with 49% strongly supporting it.

Overall, like most other Americans, Latino voters identify the Economy as their principal concern, with 56% identifying the economy in general (and another 7% specifically referencing Jobs) as the most important issue for the new administration to face this year. Despite evidence of increasing impatience for immigration reform, immigration policy was a distant second (12%) as the most important issue. Just under 80% of all respondents felt that the President and Democratic Congress would be somewhat or very effective in addressing their identified concern. Support for several specific aspects of the Administration’s economic policy is also high, with 75% expressing confidence that their policies would make the economy better, and 73% specifically supporting the stimulus package passed by Congress.

The President enjoys unprecedented levels of popularity among Latino voters. Approximately 81% of Latino registered voters approve of the job the President is doing, and 57% of that is strong approval. By contrast, disapproval at any level totals only 16%. Similar to other demographic groups, the President’s current approval rating exceeds his estimated vote share from that group last November. Somewhat more surprisingly,
Congress enjoys a 67% approval rating.

On the issue of thawing relations with Cuba, the Administration’s moves draw widespread Latino support. Specifically, when asked whether they approved or disapproved of recent policy changes over travel and remittances, as well as efforts to open dialogue with the regime, 78% of Latino voters approved of these steps, with 55% strongly approving. Somewhat more surprising was significant support among Cuban respondents, who favored these steps 56% to 40%, though we should point out that 36% of that 40% strongly disapproved. We caution, however, that the number of Cuban interviews is small, so these figures should be viewed as only suggestive. Nevertheless, there may be general support for the Administration’s policy shift even as the Cuban national-origin population remains deeply polarized on this issue and considerably less enthusiastic than non-Cuban Hispanics nationwide.

The poll was conducted by Latino Decisions, a cooperative venture of Pacific Market Research and Professor Matt Barreto of the University of Washington and Professor Gary Segura of Stanford University. The sample was of 600 self-identified Latino registered voters drawn from the 21 states with the largest Latino voter population, for a
representative coverage of 93% of the Latino population. The poll was in the field April 24 – May 1, 2009. The margin-of-error is ±4.0%. For additional information on the poll, the results, and other matters, you may contact Barreto at 909-489-2955 or Segura at 206-280-5069.

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