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Poll: Economy Number One Issue for NM Latino Voters

Event sign at University of New Mexico.PHOTO Credit Pili Tobar.
Event sign at University of New Mexico.
PHOTO Credit Pili Tobar.
October 18, 2012

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. - Local and national political analysts and Latino leaders on Tuesday held a panel discussion of the politics of immigration and the Latino vote at the University of New Mexico. One of the topics was a fresh poll of New Mexico Latino voters that identified the most important issues to be the economy, jobs and unemployment.

That's a change from how Latinos saw things in past elections.

Gabriel Sanchez is an associate political science professor at the University of New Mexico and director of research for Latino Decisions, which conducted the poll. He says the Latino vote is critical for candidates, and cites an election in which George W. Bush received more than 40 percent of the Latino vote.

"Abortion, family-value issues were the keystone issues he used to try to court the Latino vote. As the economy has slumped, overwhelmingly Latino voters are saying it's about the economy."

Immigration reform and the DREAM Act were listed together as the second most important national issue for New Mexico Latinos. Sanchez thinks the economy and immigration issues have shifted Latino support from the Republican to the Democratic column.

Although Martin Heinrich, D-N.M., appears to be leading the race for U.S. Senate, Sanchez says things look better for Republicans in that race than they do in the presidential contest.

Heather Wilson, R-N.M., "is polling better than Mitt Romney in the state among Latino voters. So, she's doing much better, outperforming her party label. She's got a softer stance on immigration policy, not quite as extreme as Mitt Romney's, which plays well with Hispanic voters."

Sanchez says the contentious topic of driver's licenses was addressed by a panelist who identified himself as a Dreamer, an undocumented student who came to the United States as a child.

"He said one of the things that he values most is that he has a driver's license. He was able to specifically note if the driver's license went away, how much of an impact it would have on his everyday life."

Support for a driver's license reform proposal being considered by New Mexico state government was at 70 percent, while opposition was at 21 percent.

Poll results are online at

Renee Blake, Public News Service - NM