Latinos not very enthusiastic about the 2012 election

By Pilar Marrero – Pilar.marrero@laopinion.com  | 2011-12-12

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Click here to view the results from the December impreMedia/Latino Decisions poll

LOS ANGELES, CA. – The lively primary campaign for the Republican nomination, which has been in the news for months, has not generated interest among the majority of Latino voters—whose enthusiasm for participating in the 2012 presidential election has plummeted in recent months. In fact, when asked specifically how enthusiastic they are about voting, there is a decreasing trend: Only 44% of Latino voters said they are very enthusiastic about participating in next year’s U.S. presidential election, compared with 47% in October and 50% in August.

“It seems like this is in part because there’s only competition on the Republican side, but it also means Latinos in general aren’t very interested and don’t feel included in the Republicans’ conversation,” said Matt Barreto, a professor at the University of Washington in Seattle and advisor for Latino Decisions, a polling organization.

The poll’s Latino Republicans are more enthusiastic, for obvious reasons: 57% said they are very interested in participating. However, Latino Republicans or Latinos who are sure about or interested in voting for the GOP’s candidates in the election have never surpassed 20% in this poll.  For example, in the most recent poll, only 9% said they are certain to vote for a Republican candidate, while a total of 17% said they are certain or could vote for a Republican.

“None of the Republican candidates has awakened the interest of Latinos,” said Gabriel Sánchez, a political scientist at the University of New Mexico. “As far as Obama, his approval among Latinos has remained stable. Perhaps we’re not as enamored with him as before, but in reality what the poll showed is that his philosophy is more consistent with that of Latino voters than what they are  hearing from the GOP.” Nevertheless, this is not good news either for the re-election of President Obama, who needs an enthusiastic turnout from his base to be able to win what looks like a close race once the GOP chooses its candidate.

The impreMedia/Latino Decisions poll began measuring the election preferences of Latino voters in February of this year. It has been measuring their enthusiasm for voting in next year’s presidential election and their potential support for President Obama and a Republican rival. In six separate polls, Latino voters’ tendency to identify with the Democrats and President Obama’s approval rating among the majority of Latinos—except for Latino Republicans—have fluctuated somewhat, but have generally remained above 60%. Nevertheless, the voting intentions and enthusiasm of Latinos, which are crucial for Barack Obama’s re-election in states such as Nevada, New Mexico, Colorado and even Arizona, which is now said to be up for grabs, are not as positive for the president as could be expected. “On the Democratic side, there’s no competition or much discussion. In 2008, as we remember, there was a lot of enthusiasm around the race, particularly between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama,” said Barreto.

Only 54% of Latino voters said they are certain to vote for Obama. And only 31% of Latino independents have said the same. This number has increased from 38% recorded in August and 49% in October, but it is still relatively modest: The president will probably need a supermajority (more than 75%) of the Latino vote to counteract a loss of support among other segments of the population.  “This lack of interest can be corrected later on, but for now it’s like a vacuum that can later be dangerous for the president,” said Barreto.

As far as the issues of interest for this group of voters, they have also remained the same during the past 10 months: the economy and jobs have been competing for first place with the issue of immigration reform among the majority of Latinos. The most recent poll showed a technical tie between the most important issues: 43% thought the economy and jobs are most important and 42% thought it was immigration reform. Latino Republicans are the exception; for 48% of them, the economy and jobs are the most important, while immigration reform matters most to 24%.

Barreto said, “We’re asking Latinos which is the issue they think the president and Congress should address or give priority to. Immigration and the economy have consistently been in the top two spots for almost a year.” “If Obama’s campaign is going to ignore the immigration issue and focus only on the economy, they may not be as persuasive for Latinos,” said Barreto. “If they only campaign on the economy, there’s not much to sell to Latinos, whose situation is very difficult.”

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