New Gallup Poll: Hispanic Voters Put Other Issues Before Immigration

 

PRINCETON, NJ — U.S. Hispanics prioritize immigration, healthcare, and unemployment to equal degrees, according to a new USA Today/Gallup poll asking about the importance of six national policy issues. Twenty percent of Hispanics each mention one of the top three issues as mattering most to them, while 17% name economic growth, 11% name the gap between the rich and poor, and 7% name the federal budget deficit. Hispanic registered voters, however, put healthcare and all economic issues before immigration, which 12% name as their most important issue.

The findings are based on Gallup Daily tracking interviews with 1,753 Hispanic adults in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia conducted April 16-May 31. The sample includes 1,005 Hispanic registered voters who, on a weighted basis, represent 47% of the total sample of U.S. Hispanics.

USA Today/Gallup asked the same issue-importance question of all Americans in Gallup Daily tracking interviews from June 13-14. Among all Americans and U.S. registered voters, healthcare, economic growth, and the federal deficit roughly tie as the most important issues, while immigration ranks last among both groups of Americans.

Given the current dampened support for Obama among non-Hispanic whites, Obama’s ability to build support or, more specifically, registration and turnout, among Hispanics in 2012 is widely seen as critical to his ability to win re-election. Thus, both candidates are carefully wooing the Hispanic vote.

Most recently, Obama announced that the U.S. will temporarily defer deportation of certain young undocumented immigrant workers, and Romney adopted a newly softened posture on immigration policy in his address last week to the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials in Orlando, Fla. Romney also took aim at Obama’s economic policies, citing the harm the weak economy is doing to the Hispanic community.

Obama Winning Among Hispanics Focused on Immigration and the Economy

The new USA Today/Gallup poll makes it clear that economic issues — particularly unemployment and economic growth — are more important to Hispanic voters nationwide than immigration. At present, Obama fares significantly better than Romney among Hispanics who cite each of these issues.

Obama leads Romney by 75 percentage points — 86% to 11% — among Hispanic voters whose top issue concern is the gap between the rich and poor. He leads by 50 or more points among those citing healthcare and immigration policies. And he leads by 25 or more points among those who cite unemployment and economic growth. Among only one group of Hispanics, those citing the federal budget deficit as most important, does Romney beat Obama, 54% to 34%.

Immigrants and First-Generation Hispanic Americans More Focused on Immigration

Although Hispanic voters are less likely to mention immigration as their top concern, those who are immigrants and first-generation Hispanic Americans are more likely to mention it than those whose family has been in the U.S. longer than that. Specifically, 16% of Hispanic voters who are themselves immigrants to the U.S. name immigration as a priority, similar to the 14% of those who were born here but with at least one parent born abroad. By contrast, 7% of Hispanic voters who, along with their parents, were U.S.-born do the same.

Implications

Hispanics are as supportive of Obama at this point in the 2012 presidential election as they were in 2008, making them a key segment of Obama’s 2012 coalition. Thus, whether to encourage Hispanic turnout (in the case of Obama) or to make inroads with Hispanics in electoral support (in the case of Romney), both candidates are making obvious overtures to the Hispanic community with pro-immigration policies. However, the current poll suggests immigration may not be the issue on which most Hispanics are focused. Rather, the economy — specifically, unemployment and economic growth — is of greatest concern to nearly four in 10 Hispanic voters, while another 21% are most concerned about healthcare.

The economy also happens to dominate the issue concerns of all U.S. voters, creating an important opportunity for Romney and Obama to attract Hispanic support with the same economy-centric message that could benefit each nationally. For now, however, Hispanic voters who name the economy as most important are still backing Obama by a wide margin.

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