With little more than two weeks to go until the November election, the most apparent characteristic of this week’s track is stability. Latinos prefer Democratic candidates to Republican candidates, 59.0% to 22.3%, with 18.7% undecided. This margin is modestly weaker than last week’s but do not meaningfully alter the complexion of the race among Latino voters. While this margin of more than 2-to-1 is consistent with Latino voting behavior over the last several electoral cycles, there are at least three points of concern for Democrats and optimism for Republicans. At 18.7%, the undecided seem quite large and we might reasonably expect that many of those still unable to find a preference will be abstaining on election day. Second, this current Democratic vote share of 59.0% lags behind partisanship, where 65.4% of Latino registered voters report Democratic partisanship. Third, the vote share estimate lags even further behind approval for President Obama, which came in this week at 67.2% among Latinos, virtually unchanged since last week and approximately equal to the President’s vote share among Latinos in the 2008 presidential election. One obvious question: if 67% of Latinos approve of Obama, why do only 59% say they will vote Democrat in the same poll?
But maybe they will? Should the undecided stay home or distribute themselves more or less proportionately by election day, our current figures would still predict a powerful 72.5% Democratic vote share (to 27.5% Republican), so the current Democratic percentage of 59.0% is a better estimate of the commitments made so far than of what the ultimate vote total will be. The size of the undecided pool and the lag between partisan sentiment and current vote intentions, however, should remain a source of concern for Democrats and be seen as an opportunity for Republicans, either in terms of turnout or persuasion.
Latino Enthusiasm up again
For the third straight week, the share of Latinos professing an intention to turn out has climbed. This week, 75.1% of Latino registered voters indicated they were “almost certain” to turn out, and this number has increased almost 10% over four weeks ago.
Our measure of enthusiasm went up for the third straight week, as well, with 55.6% of respondents indicating they were “very enthusiastic” about voting. This number has gone up over 15% from five weeks ago.
Early numbers in this tracking poll, and in other polling done by Latino Decisions over the summer, suggested a potentially catastrophic decline in Latino turnout in 2010 as compared to 2006. The trends in the last several weeks, however, have significantly attenuated this concern. Undoubtedly, some of this change is simply the results of the proximity of the election and reflects a natural increase in attention and energy, but the size of the trends in both our turnout intention numbers and our enthusiasm measure are sizable.
One caution is that the changes in enthusiasm reflect an intensification of enthusiasm among likely voters rather than a significant enlargement of the likely electorate. That is, since the increase in the “very” enthusiastic comes primarily from the “somewhat” enthusiastic. Nevertheless, trends in both enthusiasm and turnout intention bode well for Latino impact on the outcomes this November.