Most Latinos in the United States disapprove of the rise in deportations of illegal immigrants under the Obama administration. But in hypothetical matchups with two Republican presidential candidates, President Obama wins handily, according to a new survey by the Pew Hispanic Center.
The fast-growing Hispanic population represents a crucial voting bloc next November. Republicans acknowledge that their nominee must do better against Obama in 2012 than John McCain did in 2008, when Obama won 67 percent of the Hispanic vote, versus 31 percent for Senator McCain. In 2004, when President George W. Bush was reelected, he won 44 percent of the Hispanic vote.
The Pew Hispanic Center survey demonstrates how steep the challenge is for the eventual Republican nominee.
“Even among those who disapprove of the way Obama is handling the issue of deportations, a majority support his reelection over either of these two potential Republican challengers,” the Pew center reports. “Obama would carry this group by 57 percent to 34 percent against Romney and 61 percent to 31 percent against Perry.”
Latinos disapprove of Obama’s immigration policy 57 percent to 27 percent, according to the new Pew Hispanic Center survey. Under Obama, deportations have risen to record levels. Since 2009, the annual average is near 400,000, 30 percent higher than the annual average of George W. Bush’s second term and about double the annual average of his first term. The Pew Hispanic Center estimates that 81 percent of undocumented immigrants in the United States are of Hispanic origin. Among deportees in 2010, 97 percent were Hispanic, according to figures cited by Pew from the Department of Homeland Security.
Democrats have historically performed better than Republicans among Latinos, except for those of Cuban descent. In the survey, Latinos reported that jobs, education, and health care were the top issues in next year’s election. One-third of registered Latino voters said immigration was extremely important to them.
But the optics of the immigration debate have weighed heavily against the GOP. Republicans tend to favor a “secure the border first” approach to immigration, while Democrats are more inclined toward comprehensive immigration reform, which would establish a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants while also addressing border security. Critics call the citizenship provision amnesty.
In addition, 90 percent of Latinos support the DREAM Act, legislation that provides legal status to young illegal immigrants who attend college or serve in the US military for two years. The Obama administration backs the DREAM Act, while Republicans tend to oppose it.
In 2012, several swing states have fast-growing Hispanic communities, including Florida, Nevada, and New Mexico. The Obama campaign and state Democratic parties already have extensive outreach programs in place, while the Republican Party is embroiled in its nomination process. Still, Republicans believe the struggling economy – which has hit minorities harder than other Americans – gives them an inroad into the Hispanic community. Republicans also argue that Hispanics’ entrepreneurial culture and emphasis on family values make their party a natural home for Latinos.