A new Univision News/Latino Decisions poll conducted between October 21st and November 1st, 2011 provides the opportunity to gauge the candidate and policy preferences of the national electorate leading up to the 2012 presidential election. With national samples of both the Latino and overall electorates, this survey allows for comparisons to be made between the political attitudes of Latino registered voters and the more general electorate. This initial release of the survey results focuses largely on the Republican presidential primary race, with questions focused on favorability toward the contenders for the GOP nomination, and items focused on how the front-runners would fare against each other and President Obama if the election were held now.
Please click on the following links if you would like to access the full results for both samples, as well as the slides from our webcast presentation conducted in partnership with Univision News:
The table below provides results from a question in the survey that asked respondents who they would support if the Republican primary election were being held today. The table provides results for the full and Latino samples, with a breakout of Republican identifiers within each sample. Herman Cain emerges as the leader within the full sample, capturing 23% of all registered voters, and 24% of those who identify as Republican. The poll was conducted prior to a fourth woman emerging with specific allegations of sexual harassment against Cain, so it is likely that his support has dropped as a result of this recent development. Mitt Romney comes in second among all voters, trailing Cain by 5% among Republican voters and registered voters more generally. While Rick Perry is within range of the two leaders, with 10% support among all voters, none of the other candidates reaches double-digit support from voters at this point in the race.
Turning our attention to the Latino sample, we see that Mitt Romney has more support from Latino registered voters, particularly Latino Republicans, relative to Cain and Perry. Furthermore, a large segment of the Latino electorate indicate that they are undecided on who they prefer among these candidates, which has resulted in lower overall support levels for the front-runners at this point in the campaign.
If the Republican primary election were being held today, who would you vote for?
The survey also includes a favorability battery for the President and all of the major contenders for the GOP nomination. We again display results for both the full and Latino samples. As we see in the table below, President Obama has much higher approval ratings among Latino registered voters than he does from the general public- 70% favorability among Latinos compared to only 53% in the general public. There is also a much larger gap in favorability between the President and all of the GOP candidates among Latinos than we see in the full sample. For example, while President Obama enjoys a nearly 50 percentage point favorability advantage over all Republican contenders, there is only a 14 point gap between President Obama and the most favorable GOP candidates (Cain and Romney) among the general voting population.
Another major finding from the survey is the lack of general familiarity with the Republican presidential candidates among the Latino electorate. Even if we isolate the three front-runners, a robust 35% of Latino registered voters had “never heard of” Herman Cain at the time of the survey, 25% “never heard of” Mitt Romney, and 19% “never heard of” Rick Perry. These data strongly suggest that the Republican party has a great challenge facing them if they hope to secure a significant segment of the Latino vote in 2012, as a large portion of Latino registered voters do not know their candidates at this stage in the primary election.
Now I’d like to ask you about some people who have been mentioned in the news recently. For each, please tell me whether you have heard of the person, and if your impression is favorable or unfavorable. How about………?
The survey also provides a direct test of how the leading GOP contenders would fare against the President if the election were to be held today. We again display results for both the full and Latino specific samples. As we see in the figure below, Herman Cain appears to be the greatest opposition to President Obama at this point in the election, with the President only having a 6% lead on Cain with 7% of respondents still undecided. This of course could change dramatically in our next poll given the recent developments in the sexual harassment allegations facing Herman Cain. President Obama enjoys a more comfortable advantage at this point if either Rick Perry or Mitt Romney were to emerge as the GOP nominee, with nearly identical outcomes in these two scenarios within the general voting population.
Finally, we see that the lack of familiarity with the GOP candidates among Latino voters has the President capturing a much larger segment of the Latino electorate than the general electorate. As depicted in the figure below, if “the election were today”, President Obama is projected to secure roughly the same percentage of the Latino vote in 2012 as he did in 2008 – regardless of who represents the Republican Party.
While these early forecasts bode well for President Obama’s chances of securing a second term, it is important to note that our survey also indicates that a robust 53% of Latino registered voters are “less excited about President Obama and his accomplishments” after his first three years in office, and 48% were more “excited about voting” back in 2008 than they are about voting in 2012. Consequently, this enthusiasm gap among Latino voters could result in a drop in Latino turnout in 2012, which could be just as damaging to the President’s likelihood of winning a second term as a movement toward the Republican Party.
Gabriel R. Sanchez is an Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of New Mexico and Research Director for Latino Decisions.