One-third of Latino registered voters believe that neither of the two major political parties in the United States is concerned about reaching them and many are undecided about whom to vote for in the 2012 presidential elections, according to the most recent Impremedia/Latino Decisions poll.
“Recently, with the new census figures and the 2012 presidential election around the corner, they’ve stopped talking about the importance of the Latino vote, especially in critical states,” said Matt Barreto, director of the poll.
“But… what if a significant number of Latinos think neither party is doing a good job? I think here we can see a significant percentage of undecided voters and of people who potentially might not go out and vote,” said Barreto.
The poll asked voters’ opinions of the effectiveness of the Democratic and Republican Parties’ communication with Latinos. The pollsters asked this question in February and again in April. Fifty-two percent in February and 47 percent in April said the Democratic Party was doing a good job, results that aren’t too different but that aren’t very impressive either, and “that are going in the wrong direction for Democrats,” said Barreto.
There is, however, a significant number who think that neither party is very concerned with its relationship with Latinos: 33 percent, or one-third, don’t think either Democrats or Republicans are making much of an effort.
“When you look at who that 33 percent is, you realize that many are undecided about who they’ll vote for next year,” said the pollster. “In 2010 we did a similar poll and saw that these are people who, if they remain undecided, tend to have high levels of absenteeism. The effect of this on Democrats is important.”
Anthony Chavez of San Francisco voted for Obama in 2008, but is now undecided.
“I don’t think he’s achieved much progress. He doesn’t do anything but give in to the Republicans and he hasn’t fulfilled many of its promises,” said Chavez.
According to the poll results, the brand of the Republican Party is severely tarnished among a vast majority – 66 percent – of Latino voters, and more than half of them believe the party is directly “hostile” to Latinos.
"The Latino voters’ dissatisfaction with the Republican Party, according to this poll, transcends generations, income and education levels. In fact, the more assimilated Latinos are in the country, the worse their image of that party seems to be,” said
Professor Gary Segura, a political scientist at Stanford University.
Sixty-six to 62 percent of Latino voters – the number went down slightly from February to April – believe the Republican Party is “hostile” toward the Latino community or that “they don’t care much about them.” Only 20 percent say the party is doing a good job in reaching out to the community – the same 20 percent, it seems, that tends to be and vote Republican, Barreto said.
But the worst image of Republicans was found among Latino voters who are more assimilated. For example, 25 percent of Latino immigrants think Republicans are doing a good job in reaching the community, but only 17 percent of U.S.-born Latinos thinks so.
“It’s the opposite of what you would imagine -- that as they progress economically and become more assimilated, they would tend to move toward the Republican Party,” said Segura. “Something is happening that is preventing this from taking place.”
This bad image is obvious in the answers of respondents who were asked why, despite the economic situation and immigration problems, they will continue to vote for Democrats.
“I simply don’t want a Republican in the White House again,” said Silvia Portillo of Alexandria, Va. “Republiicans are only looking to benefit the rich.”
But this doesn’t mean Democrats should rest on their laurels. Only half of Latino voters believe the Democratic Party is concerned with connecting with them and this number seems to be dropping, from the polling in February to two months later in April.
“There is a strong correlation between this image of the party and their intent to vote. I think that less than half is pretty small for the Democrats,” said Barreto.
President Obama’s approval rating remains high and relatively stable, but declined slightly in the past two months: from 73 percent in February to 70 percent in April, a result that is within the margin of error and does show much of a change.
But Latinos’ intent to vote remains relatively stagnant. In the first survey in this series, only 43 percent said they were sure that they would vote for Obama in November 2012; this time 41 percent said this. In both cases, another 12 and 14 percent said they thought they would vote for him but they weren’t sure.
Although this figure is low compared to the level of Latinos normally expected to vote Democratic (a minimum of between 65 and 70 percent), the situation does not translate into more votes for Republicans. In this sense, only 20 percent of voters are sure or think they will vote for a Republican, one of the lowest numbers seen for this party.
When it comes to issues of concern to these voters, immigration fell slightly between February and April: 47 percent in February, compared to 36 percent in April, think this is the main issue they’d like to see action on by the president and Congress. But the issue continues to be in first place, followed very closely by the economy and jobs, with 33 percent.
Latino Decisions interviewed 500 registered voters between March 24 and April 2 in the 21 states with the highest Latino populations, representing 94 percent of the electorate. Respondents were selected at random from voter lists. The margin of error is 4.38 percent and interviews were conducted in English or Spanish according to the preference of the respondent.
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