Just as was the case in 2008, the state of Colorado has become a central focus of the presidential race. After recently playing host to the first debate, both the Romney and Obama campaigns have an eye on Latino voters in particular in the key battleground state. The state of Colorado has seen a tremendous amount of growth in the Latino population, which has made the state much more competitive due to the Democratic leanings of the important voting group. According to census data, that particular demographic grew by 41 percent between 2000 and 2010. Latinos now make up approximately 21 percent of Colorado’s overall population.
Yesterday, at a live streamed panel held in the Tivoli Student Union at the Metropolitan State University of Denver, political analysts, advocates, and community leaders from Colorado and across the country discussed how Latino voters and the immigration issue will shape the Presidential, Senate and House races in this state and beyond. Gabriel Sanchez, Director of Research at Latino Decisions (and Associate Professor of Political Science at University of New Mexico), and Robert Preuhs, Assistant Professor of Political Science at MSU-Denver, released fresh polling of Latino voters in Colorado, conducted by Latino Decisions for America’s Voice.
Preuhs explained: “This new polling data both confirm established conceptions while offering some surprising results. With 74% supporting Obama, the results underscore the consistently high level of support for the Democratic candidate among Latinos in Colorado. Surprisingly, the results also reveal a high level of enthusiasm in the Latino community for the upcoming election, with 69% reporting being very enthusiastic about voting in 2012 and 54% indicating greater enthusiasm for this election compared to the 2008 election. These high levels of enthusiasm imply that Latino turnout may not be dampened as much as previously expected.”
In Colorado and at the national level, Latino and new citizen voters are changing politics. With immigration high on the list of issues these voters want addressed, it’s no surprise that Republican candidates who have embraced hardline positions are faring poorly with Colorado Latinos. Just last week, after first declaring that a President Romney would not revoke work permits granted to DREAMers under the new Obama initiative, the Romney campaign later clarified that he would, in fact, end the program for future applicants. According to this new poll, these types of positions are hurting Romney and other Republicans among Colorado’s Latino voters.
According to Sanchez, ““The results of this survey clearly indicate that immigration policy is critical to voters in Colorado, as a large segment of the sample stated directly that this policy will impact how they vote in this election.”
Among the poll’s findings:
Colorado Latinos Favor Democrats by Wide Margins
▪ In the presidential race, 74% of Colorado Latinos said they will vote for President Obama, while 20% said they will vote for Romney and 6% are undecided.
▪ In addition, 64% of Colorado Latinos said they will vote for the Democratic candidate in their U.S. House race, while 15% will vote Republican and 12% are undecided.
Candidates’ Immigration Positions Matter to Colorado Latinos
▪ 59% 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, 54% of respondents said that they were “more enthusiastic” about voting for Obama and 9% 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, 9% of respondents said that they were “more enthusiastic” about Romney and 64% of respondents said that they were “less enthusiastic.”
Immigration is Not Just a Policy Issue: It’s Personal
▪ 44% of Colorado Latinos said that immigration was the most important issue facing the Latino community that Congress and the President should address, while 45% said the same about the economy, jobs, and unemployment.
▪ 69% of Colorado Latinos know someone who is undocumented, and 55% know someone who may be eligible for the DREAM Act.
▪ When asked how enthusiastic they are about voting in the election this 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?” 54% said that they were “more enthusiastic” about voting in 2012 than they were about voting in 2008.
Latino Voters Strongly Support In-State Tuition for Undocumented Students
▪ When asked “Do you support or oppose the ASSET bill to allow undocumented immigrant youth to attend college here in Colorado and not have to pay the higher non-resident rates?” 76% said that they are in favor of it (58% “strongly support” and 18% “somewhat support” it).
Sanchez continued, “In line with what we are seeing nationally Latino voters in Colorado are becoming more enthusiastic about voting as we approach the final stages of the campaign. Although there have been many questions about whether Latinos will show up at the polls due to a lack of enthusiasm about either candidate, we see that in Colorado Latinos are becoming more energized. Given that President Obama is projected to do very well with Latinos in Colorado, this change in enthusiasm could be a major problem for the Romney campaign.”
According to James Mejia, President & CEO, Mejia and Associates and former President of the Denver Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, “The voting behavior of Latinos will likely decide electoral votes in key swing states. In Colorado, Latinos are no longer a community that politicians can take for granted.”
Said Sergio De La Rosa, a DREAMer and a leader with Together Colorado Action Fund, “No matter who wins this upcoming election, I can guarantee that the immigrant community will continue to work for their rights. Especially now that we have been given a taste of what it means to be free in this nation. I can assure you that if someone tries to take that away, it won’t be without a fight.”
Added Olivia Mendoza, Executive Director of the Colorado Latino Forum, “The Latino community in Colorado is engaged and paying attention to the decisions of our elected officials. Most importantly, the issues that matter to our community resonate beyond November.”