Pew survey: Why Democrats are losing support among Latino voters

A Pew Research Center report released Wednesday shows that while Hispanic voters still lean Democrat, that support is diminishing. 

Jim Cole/AP
Republican congressional candidate Marilinda Garcia, shown in January in Concord, N.H. While Democrats still enjoy an advantage among Latino voters, 27 percent of Hispanic voters now identify as Republican, up from 22 percent, according to a new Pew survey.

Although Democrats are still the more popular party among Hispanic voters, that popularity is waning, according to a new study from the Pew Research Center.

Released in the run-up to Election Day on Nov. 4, the report shows that 57 percent of registered Hispanic voters support the Democratic candidate in their congressional district, down from 2010, when 65 percent of Latino voters supported Democrats. Meanwhile, Republicans have made gains among Hispanic voters, with 28 percent saying they lean Republican, up from 22 percent in 2010. 

Similarly, fewer registered Latino voters say they identify with the Democratic Party. Sixty-three percent say they view themselves as Democrats, down from 70 percent in 2012. And just 50 percent said the Democratic Party had more concern for Latinos, as opposed to 61 percent who felt that way two years ago, according to the report. In that case, though, Republicans did not see any gains. Just 10 percent of those surveyed said the Republican Party had more concern for Latinos, unchanged from 2012. Instead, 35 percent of Latino voters said they saw no difference between the two parties, up from 23 percent in 2012.

The report comes after more than a year of inaction on immigration reform in Washington. It also comes the same day as a new poll by Harvard University's Institute of Politics that found that, among Americans ages 18 to 29 who say they will "definitely be voting" in the November elections, 51 percent prefer a Republican-run Congress with only 47 percent wanting a Democrat-controlled Congress. The erosion of support in two key groups that traditionally lean Democrat – young people and Latinos – poses a challenge to Democrats, who risk losing control of the Senate in next week's election.  

After the House failed to take up a bipartisan immigration reform bill passed in the Senate in 2013, President Obama had promised to take executive action on the issue. Then in September, he said he would delay executive action until after the November midterm elections.

But the report – which surveyed 1,520 Hispanic adults nationwide, including 733 registered voters – also found that more than half of registered Hispanic voters said a candidate's position on immigration reform "is not a dealbreaker in determining their vote," provided they agree with the candidate's position on other key issues. 

When asked about five issues to be discussed in this year's congressional campaigns, the top three in importance for Hispanic voters were: education, the economy, and health care. Those issues ranked ahead of immigration and conflicts in the Middle East.  

Still, immigration remains a priority for Hispanics. Two-thirds of registered Latino voters say it is either "extremely important" or "very important" that the president and Congress pass new immigration legislation soon. 

At 25.2 million people, Hispanics comprise a record 11 percent of all eligible voters and are one of the fastest-growing demographics in the country. Between 2006 and 2014, the number of Hispanic voters increased from 8.6 percent to 11 percent. But according to another Pew survey released earlier this month, Latinos comprise a small percentage of voters in states with close Senate and governor's races, meaning Latinos are unlikely to have a big impact on the results of the midterm elections. 

Moreover, Hispanic voters are generally younger and young voters across all racial and ethnic groups are less likely to vote in elections than their older counterparts, according to a 2013 study from the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement. 

Despite record turnouts among Latinos in recent elections, the Pew report notes their turnout remains below that of other groups. Some 6.6 million Latinos voted in 2010, representing 31.2 percent of eligible Latino voters. That compares with 44 percent of eligible black voters and 48.6 percent of eligible white voters. 

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