How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

A dramatic rise in Latinos' support for Obama

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President  Barack Obama may have a hard time turning around the automatic spending cuts slated for March 1 as the sequester deadline approaches. But one thing he has been able to turn around is what Latinos think of him.

A new Pew Research Center survey on Americans' attitudes about the looming federal spending cuts (four in 10 say let 'em happen) contains a section on the president's job approval rating. Overall, it's more or less what it was in mid-2011. Among Latinos, though, it's exceptionally good: 73 percent.

That's a big change from the last quarter of 2011, when only 48 percent of Latinos approved of the president's job performance, and nearly 40 percent expressed disapproval. 

The rise in the president's approval rating among Latinos coincides with his evolving immigration policies. Two years ago, Obama was struggling with criticism over record deportations, which have continued in spite of other, more lenient policies. 

But things changed after his announcement last June of deferred action, a program that launched in August that offers temporary legal status to young undocumented immigrants who qualify. By last fall, pre-election polls were tracking Latino voters' growing support for Obama over Republican rival Mitt Romney. While Romney's immigration position played a role, deferred action helped the president win Latino votes

The White House kept the momentum going after the election, with the president promising to take on comprehensive immigration reform, then announcing a blueprint for reform late last month. The plan, details of which were recently leaked, offers a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants that is not tied to border security, as it is in a similar plan announced by members of the Senate.

The Pew survey reflects an even more dramatic rise in approval ratings from Latinos over the president's handling of immigration, specifically. According to the survey, in late 2011, only 28 percent of Latinos approved of how he handled immigration issues; as of this month, that approval rating has gone up to 63 percent.

The president isn't winning on every point, though. While more people overall expressed approval for his handling of issues such as immigration and climate change, he earned lower marks  for his performance on the economy and the budget deficit.

See the complete report here.

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