Latino voters personal connections to immigration reform

Latino Decisions released new polling data today highlighting why immigration reform has become the number one political issue for Latino voters, and the answer is close personal connections between Latino voters and Latino undocumented immigrants.  The poll finds that 58% of Latino registered voters now cite immigration reform as the top priority for the Congress and President, up from 35% in November 2012.  One reason is that 63% of Latino voters say they personally know someone who is an undocumented immigrant, either a member of their family or a close personal friend.  Further, 39% of Latino voters say they personally know someone, or a family who has faced deportation or detention for immigration reasons, and increase of 14 points over 2011, when 25% of Latino voters said they personally knew someone who had faced deportation or detention.  It is clear that the immigration reform issue is one that Latinos agree with in principle, but that Latino voters are also directly connected to, and intertwined with the undocumented immigrant population in the United States.  Finally, the poll asked Latino voters if they knew any young immigrants who had applied for the 2012 “deferred action” program that would allow DREAM Act-eligible immigrants to live in the U.S. and attend college with temporary visas.  More than one in five Latino voters (22%) knows someone who has already applied for deferred action, with 18% saying they know someone who is eligible, but not yet applied.

According to Gary Segura, co-founder of Latino Decisions, who delivered the webinar briefing today, “There is no segmenting Latinos into those for whom immigration is important and those who have little interest.  Immigration reform is a highly salients issue across all generations, national origin groups and even political parties.  Latino voters are asking for comprehensive immigration reform.  Period.” [Webinar slides found here]

Latino voters demonstrated very strong support for comprehensive immigration reform that includes a pathway to citizenship.  When asked to compare two proposals, one that included a clear path to citizenship, and a second which made citizenship contingent on “securing the border” a clear majority of Latinos – 70% – favored a clear path to citizenship. When asked what a fair and reasonable amount of time undocumented immigrants who qualify should have to wait for citizenship, 79% said 5 years or less, while 15% said 5 to 10 years.  Only 4% preferred an option that had 10 years or more waiting period.

Segura added: “If the motive to act on immigration reform is electoral, a path to citizenship without unreasonable waits is key.  While the numbers here suggest that Latino voters understand and accept a process, excessive delay–to say nothing of excluding a path to citizenship altogether–is clearly not acceptable and would not yield the electoral change that is sought.”

Finally, the poll asked Latino voters how they would evaluate the Republican Party vis-a-vis immigration reform.  Respondents were told that Democrats and Republicans were currently working together in a bi-partisan effort, and then asked if the GOP continued to work and deliver enough votes to pass the bill, would they be more or less likely to vote Republican? Overall, 32% of Latino voters would be more likely to vote Republican, including 26% of Latinos who voted for Obama in 2012, if the Republicans work alongside Democrats to ensure a bill is passed. However, when we asked respondents how they would react if the bi-partisan immigration bill is blocked by House Republicans, 39% said they would be less likely to vote for the GOP, including sizable percentages of Latino Republicans who said they would not support their party if the House blocks reform.  These results are consistent with data released last week by Latino Decisions which showed not just the Republican Party, but individual Republican candidates have much to gain in supporting a path to citizenship.  When asked if they would be more or less likely to support a GOP candidate who advocated for comprehensive immigration reform with a path to citizenship, 44% of Latinos voters were more likely, including 43% of Latinos who had voted for Obama.

“No matter how you slice the data, looking at Democrats, independents, and Republicans, it is clear that there is opportunity for Republican candidates to improved their share of Latino votes if they can get out in front on this issue which is SO important to Latino families,” Segura offered in conclusion.

About the poll

Latino Decisions interviewed 800 Latino registered voters via landline and mobile phone, across all 50 states, from February 15-26, 2013.  Interviews were conducted in English or Spanish, at the preference of the respondent, and all interviewing staff was fully bilingual.  The survey averaged 20 minutes in length and has an overall margin of error or +/- 3.5%.  On split sample questions the margin of error is +/- 4.9%.  Complete poll results are posted here, and a slide deck summarizing the findings is posted here. For questions about the results, please contact Gary Segura (gary.segura@latinodecisions.com); Matt Barreto (matt.barreto@latinodecisions.com) or Sylvia Manzano (sylvia.manzano@latinodecisions.com). The poll was sponsored by America’s Voice, National Council of La Raza, and SEIU.

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