Latino voters are no strangers to the plight of undocumented immigrants living in the United States.
A majority (53 percent) of Latino registered voters said they personally know an undocumented immigrant, and one-quarter (25 percent) said they know someone who has been deported or is facing deportation proceedings. That's according to a new poll by ImpreMedia and Latino Decisions, the third in a series of six national opinion polls exploring the views of the most integrated segment of Latinos in American society: registered voters.
This installment of the poll focused on the topic of immigration.
Matt Barreto, pollster for Latino Decisions and political science professor at the University of Washington, said the poll results put to rest the notion that Latino voters are not interested in what happens to undocumented immigrants.
“It proves what we know anecdotally, that the immigration issue is very personal for Latinos, and doesn't have to do with political ideology. Latino voters have personal relationships that they feel are impacted by the nation's decisions about immigrants,” said Barreto.
“That’s why they [undocumented immigrants] can affect the political decisions of even second- or third-generation Latinos born here.”
Gabriel Sanchez, political science professor at the University of New Mexico, said that at first glance, the poll results seem surprising.
“We’re talking about registered Latino voters, and yet the direct and personal connection with the issue of undocumented immigrants helps explain why even Latinos born in the United States, whose dominant language is English, have liberal attitudes about immigration policy,” he said. “This is something a lot of people in the U.S. don't understand.”
Fifty-one percent of Latino voters consider the issue of immigration, including comprehensive reform and the DREAM Act, to be the most important issue currently facing the community. Thirty-five percent said their priority is the economy and the creation of jobs. Education came in third place, with 18 percent of voters identifying it as the most important issue.
The voters surveyed said that in the absence of immigration reform in Congress, they believe the president should use his executive powers to address some of the immediate problems facing certain groups of undocumented immigrants.
Sixty-six percent of voters said they would support an executive order by the president to stop the deportation of undocumented minors or college-age youth who do not have a criminal record. This support is consistent among Latinos of all ideologies, backgrounds and political parties, including 54 percent of Republicans.
Respondents also said they did not see the need to further increase border security or direct more resources toward deportations. When asked if they thought these efforts were necessary, 29 percent agreed and 62 percent disagreed. Of these, 49 percent said they “strongly disagreed.”
Among those who favor the president’s use of executive orders, 60 percent said they support stopping the deportation of children and minors with no criminal record; 74 percent said they support stopping the deportation of undocumented immigrants who are married to U.S. citizens or legal permanent residents.
“A clear majority of Latino voters favors President Obama making use of his executive authority so there is greater discretion when it comes to detentions and deportations. They clearly want to see the end of deportations of young students, parents of U.S.-citizen children and people married to citizens or legal residents,” Barreto said.
They were also asked about a number of immigration-related state measures. Fifty-six percent said they oppose laws requiring state or local police to ask people for their papers; 29 percent were in favor of these laws.
Fifty-two percent said they would support a law clarifying that only the federal government can ask for immigration papers. Seventy-eight percent said they support laws that allow undocumented students to pay in-state tuition at universities.
The survey also found strong support for comprehensive immigration reform, reflecting the results of previous polls of Latino voters. All categories of Latino registered voters, including independents and Republicans, said they support immigration reform, in numbers ranging from 66 percent to 80 percent depending on the subgroup. All were solid majorities.
This includes requiring undocumented immigrants to pay taxes and pass a background check (84 percent supported this) and requiring them to have lived in the country for at least two years (69 percent) in order to qualify for a path to legalization. There was less support for a fine of $1,000 (48 percent in favor, 46 percent opposed) and requiring immigrants to return to their home country before getting papers (40 percent in favor and 53 opposed).
Latino voters also said they noticed an anti-immigrant and anti-Latino sentiment in U.S. public discourse. Sixty percent said there was definitely an anti-immigrant climate and 16 percent said there was to some extent (for a total of 76 percent).
Latino Decisions interviewed 500 registered voters between May 24 and June 4 in the 21 states with the highest Latino populations, representing 95 percent of the electorate. Interviewees were selected at random from voter rolls and included those interviewed by cell phone. The margin of error was 4.3 percent. Interviews were conducted in English or Spanish, according to the preference of the respondents.
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