A new report from the Pew Hispanic Center indicates significantly stronger support for Democratic candidates among Latino voters this year, though voter motivation is weak overall, and conservative Latinos appear more motivated to go to the polls.
According to a nationwide survey, two-thirds (65 percent) of Latino registered voters said they planned to support the Democratic candidate in their local congressional district. Less than a fourth (22 percent) planned to support the Republican candidate.
However, when it came to going to the polls, only one-third (32 percent) of Latino voters said they had given this year's general election "quite a lot" of thought, compared with half of all registered voters. Only 51 percent of Latino registered voters said they were certain they would go to the pols, compared with 70 percent of all registered voters.
Of those Latinos who do turn out, more may be Republican: Forty-four percent of Latino Republicans said they had given "quite a lot" of thought to the election, compared with 28 percent of Latino Democrats.
However, when asked which party showed "more concern" for Latinos, nearly half (47 percent) of Latino registered voters selected the Democratic party. Only six percent of Latino registered voters (and 18 percent of Republican Latino registered voters) saw the Republican party as having more concern for Latinos.
The survey was conducted between August and September, before the eruption of last week's scandal in California over GOP gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman's nine-year employment of an undocumented maid, which now has her defending her tough-on-illegal immigration stance.
Mark Hugo Lopez, associated director of the Pew Hispanic Center and the report's author, pointed out that Latinos who were surveyed ranked immigration only fifth among a list of seven top concerns in the election, behind issues such as education, jobs and health care.
However, "when you ask about specific policy questions, like workplace raids, Latinos overwhelmingly disapprove of many specific enforcement actions," Lopez said. "And when we asked, 'Have you talked with family and friends about the immigration policy debate?' we found that two out of three Latino registered voters had done that. Those who said they had discussed it said they are more likely to go out and vote."
A more specific Pew report involving the role of immigration issues in the forthcoming elections is due out later this month.
Immigration has shaped up to be a key issue in the California governor's race, especially in light of the revelations last week involving Whitman and her former maid, Nicandra Diaz Santillan. Whitman has said she did not know that Diaz, who indicated to an employment agency that she could work legally, was undocumented.
Even before the scandal broke, Latino voters were less likely to embrace Whitman, with one poll showing a 19-point gap between Whitman and Democratic rival Jerry Brown among Latino registered voters. A Rasmussen Reports statewide telephone survey of likely voters in general conducted in the wake of "housekeepergate" is showing Whitman behind Brown by four points; a survey conducted two weeks ago showed a virtual tie.