Poll after poll has shown that the economy, rather than immigration, is the most important issue to Latino voters in the 2012 election. But that doesn’t mean immigration won’t come heavily into play. In fact, some Latino pollsters and immigration advocates think it could be a factor in mobilizing Latino voters to the polls, turning the 2012 election into a referendum on politicians that support or oppose recent developments in immigration.
“Latinos say that immigration is not the most important issue, but if Republicans keep talking about it and talking about it in a way that is offensive, then it starts to become a cue,” Sylvia Manzano, a senior analyst at the polling firm Latino Decisions, which tracks the political opinions of Latino voters, told Business Insider Monday.
The firm has released a number of polls recently on the immigration issues dominating the 2012 campaign, including Obama’s shift in policy to no longer deport some young illegal immigrants, and the Arizona immigration law ruling that was handed down by the Supreme Court earlier today.
A poll taken after Obama’s announcement of his administration’s shift found that 49 per cent of Latinos polled were more excited about voting for Obama, compared with just 30 per cent that said they were excited about voting for him before the announcement. In some swing states, including Arizona and Colorado, Latino enthusiasm for Obama exploded.
A surge in Latino turnout and bigger droves of support could swing Obama to victory in these key states. In 2008, Obama won the Latino demographic by only 15 points in Arizona, for example. In Colorado, he won among Latinos by 23 points. Both states now have incredibly wider margins.
Manzano compared the recent fallout on immigration issues to women paying attention to certain issues — although they might might not rank them as the most important, but they take notice.
“A woman might not say sexual harassment is the most important issue, but if they perceive somebody to have a problem with that, then they might not support them,” Manzano said. “In the same way, for most Latino voters, immigration is not an important issue because they’re citizens. But it can still be a real turn-off.”
Another turn-off was the Supreme Court’s decision to leave in place, for now, a controversial provision in the Arizona immigration law that requires law enforcement officials to check the legal status of detained and arrested people with reasonable suspicion.
Photo: Latino Decisions
In a poll of five key swing states — Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Nevada and Virginia — Latino Decisions found that 60 per cent of Latino voters think that the court leaving the provision in place will “contribute to an anti-immigrant, anti-Hispanic environment in America.”“On the law in particular, on SB1070, the answer to the question, ‘Which side are you on?’ is going to stay on the minds of Latino voters for years to come,” Clarissa Martinez, the director of immigration and civic engagement at the National Council of La Raza, told Business Insider. “Latinos clearly understand that the effect of these laws is to make suspects of all of us, regardless of immigration status.”
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