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Immigration reform ranks surprisingly low on the list of Hispanic voters

by Christopher A. Guzman, published

As much as the media has sensationalized immigration reform since President Obama’s promise to pass a bill, the issue is not a top concern for many Hispanics according to a new poll from the Pew Hispanic Center.  

According to the poll, the immigration reform debate reignited when Arizona passed their immigration law. However, education, jobs, and healthcare are the top three concerns for many Hispanics at this time.  In comparison to these other issues, immigration reform takes the number five spot in a ranking of important issues for registered Hispanic voters. 

Immigration, nevertheless, still has an important role to play in the upcoming election. Hispanic voters who have at least had a conversation about the issue with others are more likely to vote in the November midterms than those who have not talked about the issue with people around them.   The result that remains unchanged in the poll is the fact that Hispanics still heavily favor the Democratic Party by more than a two-thirds margin. Sixty-five percent of Hispanic voters still plan on supporting the Democratic candidate in their congressional district, while a mere 22 percent say that they will support the Republican candidate. 

Though Hispanic support for Barack Obama remains virtually the same as it did when he won 67 percent of Hispanics during his historic presidential campaign, there is one critical factor that could be a game changer for Democrats both in a few weeks as well as in 2012.   The Pew poll notes that voter enthusiasm is currently higher among Hispanics who would vote Republican than those who would vote Democratic. This seems to be an indication of the frustration of pro-immigration reform Hispanics who expected President Obama and members of Congres to act more swiftly on the critical issue. 

These are interesting findings considering the recent Meg Whitman incident in which attorney Gloria Allred accused the Republican candidate of being a hypocrite on immigration when she hired an illegal immigrant as a maid.  One would think that such an allegation against the Republican candidate would absolutely devastate Whitman’s chances of remaining politically viable.  If the poll accurately reflects Hispanic voting patterns, however, then this reveals that winning their support doesn’t rest solely on one issue.  Leslie Sanchez, an expert in Hispanic trends, referenced the Pew poll in a recent CNN op-ed , noting that Hispanics don’t have their own solitary issues; instead, their concerns mirror the electorate overall.

One effective way Whitman will have a chance with Hispanics in the state is if the former E-bay CEO sticks to emphasizing her strengths on issues like job creation and improving the state’s dismal education system.

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