The 2012 presidential election was barely over when Republicans correctly surmised that their outreach to Latino voters was anemic and they better change course. The focus to date has been entirely on immigration reform – which represents an extremely troubling area for the GOP – but by no means is the only policy area in which Latino voters have strong preferences at odds with current Republican rhetoric. When it comes to the economy, rated as the top issue by 53% of Latino voters in the 2012 election, the Republican Party is equally vulnerable.
In the impreMedia/Latino Decisions election eve poll of more than 5,600 Latino voters an astounding 77% said they favor tax increases on the wealthy as part of the plan to reduce the deficit (See Figure Below). Only 12% said they favor a spending cuts-only approach. And there is a message here for both parties from Latino voters: among Democrats 86% expect to see tax increases on the wealthy in the deficit plan and the Democrats who benefited greatly from record high Latino support cannot ignore this overwhelming preference. For Republicans who look to make in-roads consider this: among Latino Independents 77% support tax increases on the wealthy, and even among Latino Republicans 51% support higher taxes on the wealthy compared to just 35% who want a cuts-only approach. Among self-described born-again Christians, a subgroup of Latinos that George W. Bush carried in 2004, 69% support raising taxes on the wealthy as part of a deficit plan.
It is without question that the Republican Party faces an obstacle with Latino voters on immigration rhetoric and policy, and things must change. As Jeb Bush told Republicans at the RNC in Tampa – we have to “stop acting stupid on immigration policy.” However these potential Republican converts are also watching the GOP on the fiscal cliff. Overall, 31% of Latino voters said they would be more likely to vote Republican in the future if the party took a leadership role and helped to pass comprehensive immigration reform. Among these potential GOP pick-ups, 13% support a spending cuts-only approach while 77% support tax increases on the wealthy as part of the overall debt reduction plan. Simply put, while Republicans look to make in-roads with Latinos on a softer approach to immigration, they risk alienating more than three-quarters of potential voters if they oppose tax increases on the wealthy.
And support for an approach that combines spending cuts with tax increases on the wealthiest Americans is very popular among Latinos in key battleground states where Latino voters are very influential in who wins and who loses. According to the impreMedia/Latino Decisions 2012 election eve poll, in Florida, 72% of Latino voters support tax increases on the wealthy as part of the plan. In Colorado and Nevada the support reaches 80%. In Arizona, 73% support tax increases on the wealthy, and in New Mexico 77%. In state after state, Latino voters are strongly supportive of a deficit reduction plan that not only cuts spending, but also increases revenues by increasing the tax rate on the wealthiest Americans. If politicians ignore this directive, they do so at their own peril in terms of securing or persuading Latino voters.