Why Arizona may be the surprise of 2012 – the big Latino vote that you didn’t see coming

In 2010, the average of 16 polls of likely voters in Nevada suggested Sharon Angle had a firm 3 point lead, and 538’s Nate Silver gave her an 83.4% chance of winning.  On election night, the results showed Harry Reid with a 5 point win — an 8 point difference from the poll averages.  Why the error? Almost every statewide poll in Nevada badly missed the Latino vote.  In the final analysis, Reid won close to 90% of the Latino vote, and Latino turnout was much higher than anticipated.

New polling data out of Arizona released by America’s Voice and Latino Decisions suggests Arizona may be much closer than the polling averages indicate.  A full 80% of Latinos say they plan to vote for Obama, compared to just 14% for Romney, and Latino enthusiasm is much, much higher in Arizona than the national average.  In Latino Decisions national tracking poll 34% of Latinos say they are more excited about voting in 2012 while 36% say they were more excited back in 2008.  In Arizona 60% are more enthusiastic in 2012 compared to just 16% who were more enthused in 2008.  In October and November 2010 Latino Decisions polling in Nevada was picking up similar trends in Nevada, leading then Washington Post columnist Edward Schumacher-Matos to note on Election Day before the polls closed: “As the Western returns come in tonight, look out for the possibility of a Latino surprise.  For the Democrats, a high Latino turnout could possibly save Harry Reid in Nevada.”

If Latino turnout is high in Arizona this year, it will be the Nevada of 2012 that takes the mainstream media by surprise.

Full results of the Arizona Latino poll are posted here.  Among the poll highlights:

Arizona Latinos Favor Democrats by Wide Margins

  • In the presidential race, 80% of Arizona Latinos said they will vote for President Obama, while 14% said they will vote for Romney and 6% are undecided. The largest vote share for Obama of any state.
  • In the U.S. Senate race, 75% of Arizona Latinos said they will vote for Richard Carmona (D), while 12% said they will vote for Rep. Jeff Flake (R) and 13% are undecided.
  • In addition, 69% of Arizona Latinos said they will vote for the Democratic candidate in their U.S. House race, while 14% will vote Republican and another 14% are undecided.

Candidates’ Immigration Positions Matter to Arizona Latinos

  • 68% of respondents said that immigration was “the most important issue” or “one of the most important issues” in their voting decisions this year.
  • After hearing about President Obama’s deferred action policy, 64% of respondents said that they were “more enthusiastic” about voting for Obama and 5% said that they were “less enthusiastic.” Meanwhile, after hearing about Mitt Romney’s statements on “self-deportation” and his support for Arizona’s SB 1070, 8% of respondents said that they were “more enthusiastic” about Romney and 67% of respondents said that they were “less enthusiastic.”
  • Upon learning of Jeff Flake’s vote against the DREAM Act in 2010 and his support for increasing “border security instead of trying to stop the Arizona immigration law,” 59% of respondents said that they were “less enthusiastic” about Flake, while 8% said they were “more enthusiastic” about him.
  • After hearing about Richard Carmona’s support for the DREAM Act and his praise of the Obama administration’s deferred action policy, 73% of respondents said that they felt “more enthusiastic” about Carmona, while only 5% said that they felt “less enthusiastic.”

Immigration is Not Just a Policy Issue: It’s Personal

  • 55% of Arizona Latinos said that immigration was the most important issue facing the Latino community that Congress and the President should address. This was followed by 44% who said that the economy was the most important issue.
  • 66% of Arizona Latinos know someone who is undocumented, and 55% know someone who may be eligible for the DREAM Act.
  • When asked “thinking ahead to the November 2012 presidential election, how enthusiastic are you about voting in the election next year?,” 69% of respondents said that they were “very enthusiastic” about voting in the upcoming election. In a separate question that asked “would you say you are more enthusiastic about voting in 2012, or that you were more enthusiastic about voting back in 2008?” 60% said that they were “more enthusiastic” about voting in 2012 than they were about voting in 2008.

At the panel in Phoenix sponsored by America’s Voice and Arizona State University, where the results were released:

Rodolfo Espino, Associate Professor of Political Science at Arizona State University, explained: “Latino voters in Arizona expressed frustration towards both political parties immediately following the passage of SB1070. As we head toward the 2012 Presidential election, the feelings of frustration by Latinos have tilted more against Republican candidates and enthusiasm for Democratic candidates has moved up. This has made the general elections in Arizona more competitive than many initially anticipated.”

Daniel Rodriguez, National Coordinating Committee Member at United We Dream, agreed. “As immigrant youth we have realized the power of our stories. Every day we fight for complete integration by sharing who we are as Americans without papers. Most importantly, we are increasingly exercising our right, if not to vote, then to influence those that can vote, especially the Latino families and community to which we belong,” he said.

Mi Familia Vota Arizona State Director Francisco Heredia outlined his group’s efforts to get out the vote and declared: “There is no better time for Latinos to vote than on November 6. Voting is our chance to take control over what happens to our families and our community, that’s why Mi Familia Vota is doing everything possible to help and motivate eligible Latinos to vote on this Election and beyond.”

According to Bill Hart, Senior Policy Analyst at the Morrison Institute for Public Policy, “Whether or not the Hispanic vote—the so-called ‘sleeping giant’—fully awakens in Arizona this year, there is no doubt that Latinos’ political impact will continue to grow along with their increasing share of the state’s total population.”


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