Immigration was a major issue for Latino voters when they cast ballots to choose the next president of the United States. America’s Voice Education Fund (AVEF), an organization that advocates for aspiring citizens, said in a statement that the unprecedented Latino turnout levels and historic levels of support for Democratic candidates helped President Obama win re-election and kept the Senate a Democratic majority.
Regarding turnout, NALEO [National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials], which has an excellent track record of projecting Latino turnout, predicted an unprecedented 12.2 million Latino voters for 2012, which would be an increase of 26% from 2008. While the specific turnout data will only become available in the coming weeks and months, what is clear today, via the Election Eve poll conducted by impreMedia/Latino Decisions nationwide and in 11 key 2012 battleground states, is that Latino voters not only played a major role in returning President Barack Obama to the White House, but also were critical in helping to keep the Senate in Democratic hands. In all cases, immigration reform and the dramatic distinction between the two parties on the issue was a major driver of Latino voter political choices.
Some other key takeaways about the Latino vote include:
- Immigration Is a Personal and Defining Issue for Latino Voters: The poll found that 60% of Latino voters nationwide “know somebody who is an undocumented immigrant.” While ranking second on the “most important issue” question, immigration ranked first in several states currently experimenting with draconian anti-immigrant approaches, such as Arizona (plurality of 48% said immigration) and North Carolina (50% said immigration). The foreign-born subset of Latino voters—a group with direct personal experience with immigration policy—preferred Obama over Romney by an 80% to 18% margin, was more likely to rank immigration as the number one issue our leaders should address (39%) and was more likely to know an undocumented immigrant (66%).
- The Republican Party as a Whole—not Just Romney—Has a Major Problem with Latino Voters: Latino voters’ support for Democratic congressional candidates over GOP candidates—77% to 23%—was consistent or may have even slightly over-performed President Obama’s Latino margin over Mitt Romney (75% to 23%). And just like in 2010, Latino voters’ overwhelming support for the Democratic Senate candidates helped keep the U.S. Senate in Democratic hands. In Arizona, Democrats kept Richard Carmona competitive with Jeff Flake by supporting Carmona 83% to 17%. In California, Dianne Feinstein coasted to re-election, winning Latinos 79% to 20%. In Florida, Bill Nelson won re-election in large part due to 59% to 40% support among Florida Latinos. In Massachusetts, Elizabeth Warren’s victory was made possible in part by overwhelming support from Latinos (86% to 14%). In Nevada, Latino voters supported Shelley Berkley by a 79% to -20% margin. In Ohio, Latino voters supported Sherrod Brown’s re-election by a 80% to 20% margin. In Virginia, Latino voters provided the margin for Tim Kaine’s close election by supporting him at a 70% to 29% clip. And for Republican strategists who think Latino competitiveness can be achieved solely by recruiting more Latino Republican candidates, the poll found that winning Texas Senate candidate Ted Cruz (R) only received support from 35% of Texas Latino voters—issues such as immigration matter more to Latino voters than ethnicity.
- President Obama’s DREAMer Announcement Boosted Latino Voter Enthusiasm: President Obama’s June 2012 announcement of the DREAMer deferred action program made 58% of Latino voters nationwide “more enthusiastic” about President Obama, while 32% of nationwide respondents said it had “no effect” on their enthusiasm for the president (only 6% said “less enthusiastic”). This enthusiasm was particularly high in some of the key battleground states that tipped President Obama’s way in large part because of overwhelming support from Latinos—the announcement made 62% of Colorado Latinos and 61% of Nevada Latinos “more enthusiastic” about President Obama.