WASHINGTON - In a year when support for Democratic candidates has eroded, the party's standing among one key voting group-Latinos-appears as strong as ever. Two-thirds (65%) of Latino registered voters say they plan to support the Democratic candidate in their local congressional district, while just 22% support the Republican candidate, according to a nationwide survey of Latinos. If this pro-Democratic margin holds up on Election Day next month, it would be about as wide as in 2008, when Latinos supported Barack Obama for president over John McCain by 67% to 31%.
However, Hispanic registered voters appear to be less motivated than other voters to go to the polls. Just one-third (32%) of all Latino registered voters say they have given this year's election "quite a lot" of thought. In contrast, half (50%) of all registered voters say the same. And when it comes to their intent to vote, half (51%) of Latino registered voters say they are absolutely certain they will vote in this year's midterm election, while seven-in-ten (70%) of all registered voters say the same.
The survey finds that among Latino registered voters, Republicans may be more likely to turn out and vote than Democrats. Some 44% of Latino Republicans say they have given the election quite a lot of thought compared with 28% of Latino Democrats. This partisan gap is consistent with survey findings of the full population of registered voters.
When it comes to opinions of President Barack Obama, a greater share of Latino registered voters approve of his job performance than do all U.S. registered voters-63% versus 47%. Yet when asked about the effect of his administration's policies on Hispanics, Latino registered voters are divided. More than half (51%) say his policies have had no effect on Latinos, while one-in-four (26%) say they have been helpful to Latinos and 13% say they have been harmful.
The new survey also reveals that the Democratic Party continues to hold a large advantage in party identification among Latino registered voters. More than six-in-ten (62%) Latino registered voters say they identify with or lean toward the Democratic Party, while one-quarter (25%) say the same for the Republican Party-a Democratic advantage of 37 percentage points.
Democrats are seen as the party that has more concern for Hispanics. Nearly half (47%) of Latino registered voters say this about the Democratic Party-down from 55% in 2008, but similar to the share on this question expressed by Latinos for much of the past decade. In contrast, very few see the Republican Party as more concerned about Latinos than the Democratic Party-just 6% of all Latino registered voters and 18% of Republican Latino registered voters say this.
When Arizona enacted an unauthorized immigrant enforcement bill earlier this year, the immigration policy debate reignited across the country. Even so, the new survey shows that immigration does not rank as a top voting issue for Hispanics. Rather, they rank education, jobs and health care as their top three issues of concern for this year's congressional campaign. Immigration ranks as the fifth most important issue for Latino registered voters and as the fourth most important issue for all Latinos.
However, the survey finds that two-thirds (66%) of Latino registered voters say they talked about the immigration policy debate with someone they know in the past year. It also finds that those who have had these conversations are more motivated to vote in the upcoming election than are those who haven't. Nearly six-in-ten (58%) Latino registered voters who have discussed the immigration debate say they are absolutely certain they will vote in November, compared with just four-in-ten (39%) of those who have not talked about the immigration debate.
This report is based on a nationally representative bilingual telephone survey of 1,375 Latinos ages 18 and older, including 618 registered voters. Interviews were conducted from August 17 through September 19, 2010. The margin of error for the full sample is plus or minus 3.3 percentage points at the 95% confidence level; for registered voters, the margin of error is plus or minus 4.9 percentage points.