Latino vote in midterms more Democratic — but many warning signs for Democrats appear

With three weeks of interviewing complete in the Latino Decisions tracking poll, a wave of small but consistent shifts suggests concern for Democrats.

The good news for Democrats is that Congressional two-party vote has moved in their direction, up 3.6% from last week’s poll. GOP share also increased by a very modest 1.5% while “undecided” dropped over 5%. The latest estimate in the Latino Decisions track is 55.1% Democrat, 24.8% Republican and 20.1% Undecided. Over the course of the Fall, we expect a slow erosion of undecideds as voter preference firms up. Those who remain undecided close to election day have a low likelihood of going to the polls. If only those expressing a preference voted, an election held today would find Latino vote split 69% Democratic, 31% Republican, numbers consistent with historic patterns.

Troublesome Signs for Democrats

Even as indecision gives way to Democratic vote preference consistent with previous elections, the data in this week’s track include a number of critical warning signs for Democrats. The percentage of all voters reporting they were “almost certain” to turn out this fall dropped 1.3% from last week, to 71.8%. Reported enthusiasm for voting also declined, with 40.7% of respondents reporting being “very enthusiastic,” down 3.2% from just last week. Enthusiasm among voters is a strong predictor for whether promises to go to the polls turn into actual votes cast. Democrats have identified an enthusiasm gap among core constituencies for much of the past year and had hoped to begin closing that gap this fall. These data suggest that, at least for Latinos, things are getting worse not better.

Likewise, Latino voter attitudes toward Congress and the President are also eroding. Overall approval of Barack Obama is 61.4%, down 3.2% from last week. While 61.4% is an approval level much higher than for the population as a whole, the relevant point of comparison is the 70% or more of the two-party vote that Obama received in November 2008. His popularity among Latinos is substantially lower than the exit poll estimated vote share.

At least one reason for this is the issue of immigration, a core concern of many Latino voters. We asked how important it was that immigration reform be enacted before the November election, even in the context of all the other issues Congress and the president had to deal with. Nevertheless, 64% reported it was very or extremely important, while only 29.4% felt it was not important.

Neither party is seen as likely to deliver on this important issue. More respondents believe Democrats are dodging the issue (42.5%) than believe Democrats are working to solve the problem (30.5%), and that trend is growing compared to last week, when only 38.3% believed the Democrats were avoiding the issue. When asked whether they specifically approved of the President’s handling of the immigration issue, just 45% approve while 48% disapprove. This item produced the largest shift in the poll, since approval for Obama’s handling of immigration dropped 6.9% in just this week while disapproval climbed 7.6%

By contrast, views of Republicans on this issue are stable. A plurality of Latinos see Republicans as blocking any reform of immigration (36.2%), compared with only 14.1% thinking they are working to pass a bill. The balance believes the GOP is ignoring the issue. In summary, while Democrats are preferred to Republicans on the issue of immigration, the credibility of the Democrats on this issue is declining, possibly steeply.

  • Full results for Week 2 posted here
  • New Results will be posted next Monday, September 13, 2010

NOTE on Interpretation:

The results and trends apparent in this week’s poll should be interpreted with caution. The differences reported on individual items are often modest and within the margin of error of the two waves in comparison. At the same time, the consistency of the results across multiple questions, and the stability implicit in a rolling tracking poll, suggest that the trends that have emerged are likely signaling genuine movement in the electorate.


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