WASHINGTON - Latino Decisions and experts in Latino civic participation and immigration reform gathered on a press conference call to analyze Latino voter turnout in the 2010 elections, assess what motivated Latinos to vote, and answer what Tuesday night's results mean for the future of immigration reform and Latino political engagement. The call also featured a detailed analysis of election night polls in 8 states conducted by Latino Decisions that details how and why Latino citizens voted in eight states - AZ, CA, CO, FL IL, NM, NV, and TX.
On the press call, Gary Segura of Latino Decisions highlighted that Latinos voted for Democrats over Republicans by roughly a three to one margin and noted that, "Latinos may have saved the Senate for Democrats. They certainly saved Harry Reid - about 10% of the overall vote in Nevada were Latinos voting Democrat. Overwhelmingly, Latino voters were there to support Latino community instead of either party and felt that the immigration debate and accompanying anti-Latino sentiment drove them to the polls on Election Day."
The Latino Decisions polling, sponsored by National Council of La Raza (NCLR), Service Employees International Union (SEIU), and America's Voice, found that immigration issues were critical in driving Latino voters to the polls this election. While 48% of Latino voters chose either "jobs" or "the economy" as their top concern in the Latino Decisions poll, 37% chose immigration as the most important issue. In every state, immigration was among the top two issues that voters wanted policymakers to address, ahead of education, housing, taxes, and other important issues.
According to Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America's Voice and the moderator of the call, "Latino voters delivered in the 2010 elections. Were it not for the Latino firewall in the West, these midterms would have conformed to past "change" elections, which have seen both houses of Congress swept from power. Instead, this time, Latinos kept the Senate in Democratic hands and played a key factor in helping Democrats win the governors' races in California and Colorado, and their current lead in Illinois."
Similarly, Clarissa Martinez De Castro, Director, Immigration and National Campaigns at National Council of La Raza (NCLR), said, "Latinos in 2010 reaffirmed their influential role in American politics both as voters and candidates" and pointed to the choice confronting the Republican Party in recapturing lost ground among Latino voters for the 2012 elections and beyond, saying, "Republicans have an option - continue to let extremist leaders define their stance on immigration or come to the table and present a clear solution to the immigration issue."
In addition to the polling data discussed, the call featured the on-the-ground testimonials from experts in some of the critical 2010 battleground states in which Latino voters - and the issue of immigration - played a major role.
Mike Garcia, President, SEIU United Service Workers West (USWW), discussed how Latino voters provided the winning margin in California for Governor-elect Jerry Brown (D-CA) and Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA). Garcia stated, "The politics we see now in California give a glimpse to the political future in other western states. In California, where more than 1 in 5 voters are Latino, there's no doubt that Meg Whitman's anti-immigrant stance cost her the election. Her flip-flop from the primary to the general and her support of SB1070 deeply offended Latino voters."
In Arizona, the scene of a heated debate over immigration, the Latino Decisions polling found that Latinos strongly oppose the SB1070 anti-immigrant law (by a margin of 74% - 17%), and that immigration (45%) polled ahead of jobs and the economy (41%) as a key motivating issue for voters. Francisco Heredia, Arizona State Director of the Mi Familia Vota Education Fund, said that, "As we move to 2012, Latinos will be increasingly motivated in Arizona politics and elections - and anti-Latino rhetoric will continue to be a major motivator for Latino voters."
Meanwhile, Jessie Ulibarri, the Colorado State Director for the Mi Familia Vota Civic Participation Campaign, summed up the role of Latino voters in Colorado and beyond, saying, "We need to put to rest the idea that Latino community is a sleeping giant. We are an ignored giant but no more. Latino voters are informed and active all across Colorado and western states."
Access Latino Decisions PowerPoint Presentation on Election Night Polling Results: http://latinodecisions.files.wordpress.com/2010/11/press-briefing-pptx.pdf
Analysis from New York Times Polling Guru Nate Silver and Latino Decisions on why Latino Decisions' Methodology May Be More Accurate in Capturing Latino Voter Sentiment than National Exit Polls: http://fivethirtyeight.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/11/03/did-polls-underestimate-democrats-latino-vote/ and http://latinodecisions.wordpress.com/2010/11/04/how-the-national-exit-poll-badly-missed-the-latino-vote-in-2010/