Poll: Republicans Underestimated the Power of the Latino Vote
FAIRFAX, Va. – Republicans will need to do an about-face when it comes to immigration issues if they want to capture the Latino vote, according to a new poll of Latino voters in Virginia.
The poll by Latino Decisions shows that 66 percent of Latinos in Virginia voted for President Barack Obama, compared to 31 percent for Mitt Romney. The president won the hotly contested state.
And in the U.S. Senate race, 70 percent voted for Democrat Tim Kaine versus 29 percent for Republican George Allen.
These results are not surprising, says Xavier Medina Vidal, a professor in the political science department at Virginia Tech. He says Republicans have underestimated the power of one of the fastest-growing voting blocs.
"The Latinos in Virginia responded to issues – and the candidates had clear differences and Latinos in Virginia responded to those differences."
Of those polled in Virginia, 42 percent said immigration reform and the DREAM Act were top issues for them. Based on Latino Decisions estimates, Latinos make up 2.3 percent of Virginia's electorate.
In Vidal's view, Republicans in general are out of touch with Hispanic voters. He thinks their approach has been that the GOP can capture their vote solely by addressing socially conservative issues.
"And what they don't understand, or fail to understand, is that Latinos are not a monolithic group. Latinos have all kinds of views on social issues and economic issues, and the Republicans missed that entirely."
According to the poll, if the Republican Party took a leadership role in supporting comprehensive immigration reform, with an eventual pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, and worked to get it passed, 28 percent of respondents would be more likely to vote Republican.