Hispanic voters – 9% of the total electorate – may be “the fastest growing and perhaps the most volatile swing electorate in American politics.” What has the past year or two done to their political loyalties, after over a decade of movement towards the Republican party? The answer, from this NDN poll discussed further below:
In 2004 Kerry beat Bush 59%-40% with all Hispanics. When asked how they would vote if the Presidential election were held today, this group gives Democrats a remarkable 36-point advantage: 59%-23%. Thus the Republicans lost serious ground but Democrats did not gain any.
Bush’s standing with this group has plummeted. In the 2004 cycle, Bush regularly received a 60% favorable rating from Hispanics. In our survey this was reversed, as 38% see him favorably, 58% unfavorably, with 40% very unfavorable towards the President.
NDN, a Democratic Party-affiliated public interest group, released the results of this survey of Hispanic voters this week, in collaboration with its Hispanic Strategy Center. Another article on a recent Pew Hispanic Center political poll is found
here in the Washington Post.
The NDN survey found that support for Bush and Republicans has “dramatically declined” but that support for Democats has not proportionately increased. “Additionally, the poll offers clear evidence that the immigration debate has increased this community’s participation in the civic life of their nation. More than half of those questioned say the issue will make it more likely that they will vote this year. A remarkable 25% of those surveyed state that they have taken part in recent public demonstrations for better immigration policies. It appears that millions of Hispanics are rising to the “today we march, tomorrow we vote” challenge offered by the leaders of community this year.
The poll, conducted by the New York-based market research firm LatinInsights, surveyed a 600-person national sample of Spanish-dominant Hispanic registered voters. It is the largest poll of Spanish-language dominant Hispanic voters we’ve come across. The poll was paid for by the NDN Political Fund.
About 9% of all American voters today are Hispanic. Of this 9%, about half, or 4-5% of the overall American electorate, is Spanish-language dominant. Spanish-language dominant means that these voters prefer to speak in Spanish, though many of these voters are English competent.
In the last three Presidential elections, the Dem/GOP share of the total Hispanic electorate has gone from 72%-21% to 62%-35% to 59%-40%. This extraordinary shift has made the Hispanic vote the fastest growing and perhaps the most volatile swing electorate in American politics.
Much of the movement towards the Republicans at a national level has come with Spanish language-dominant Hispanic voters. According to an analysis done by NDN and Bendixen and Associates, English-dominant Hispanics have stayed reliably Democratic, holding throughout this time at about a 2:1 ratio (2004: 65%-34%). The movement towards Bush has come from the Spanish-dominant, as they have gone from 82%-18% Clinton-Dole in 1996 to 52%-48% Kerry-Bush, while increasing from 30% of the Hispanic electorate in 1996 to 48% in 2004.
Key Finding 1: Hispanics are disappointed with Bush and unhappy with Republican government. Recent electoral gains made by Bush in this community have been wiped out. On the issue of greatest concern to the Hispanic community as a whole – immigration reform – only 15% believe that the current debate will make it more likely they vote Republican. Overall, the number identifying immigration and discrimination as major issues have increased substantially from previous years.
Key Finding 2: While making modest gains, Democrats have a lot of work to do.
While Democrats have made modest gains with this group, growing from 52% in 2004 to 59%, most of the movement this year has been away from Bush and the Republicans and not towards Democrats. In a detailed issue battery, while consistently far ahead of Republicans, Democrats regularly under perform their 59% electoral performance and 65% Party favorability. This indicates that while Democrats are well-regarded by this electorate, they are not well defined.
Key Finding 3: The immigration debate has had a tremendous impact with these voters, and will increase their turnout this fall.
This group now believes immigration reform is now the most important problem facing the Hispanic community, with 37% choosing that option, and 15% choosing a related issue, discrimination. Taken together, these two issues are seen as the most important concerns by 52% of those surveyed. The next highest issue is education with 8%. In the 2004 cycle, immigration rarely ranked in the 1st tier of concerns of Hispanics voters.
By a margin of 62% to 28%, Hispanics are in favor of immigration reform. By more than a 2-1 margin (36%-15%), Hispanics believe the immigration debate makes it more likely that they will vote for Democrats in the fall. In a remarkable show of civic participation, 25% say they participated in a recent rally or demonstration for a better immigration policy. 54% of all those surveyed say they are more likely to vote this fall because of the debate.
Key Finding 4: Most Hispanics believe that it is harder to get ahead. Consistent with national data showing median income decline and wages stagnant; rising health care, interest, energy and education costs; and the erosion of the purchasing power of the minimum wage, most Hispanics – an extraordinary 86% – say the cost of living has increased.
Key Finding 5: Despite the perception that discrimination against Hispanics is widespread, Hispanics overwhelmingly believe there are greater opportunities here than in Latin America. Even though 75% of respondents say that there is discrimination against Hispanics in the US, 91% believe there is much greater opportunity here than in Latin America.