Playing Latino Politics

IRCAAs the fastest-growing demographic in the country, the Hispanic population is one group where political strategists are highly focused. In particular, the Pew Research Hispanic Trends Project hones in on the political leanings of the Latino population to shed light on the priorities of the group, which doesn’t always put immigration reform at the top of the list of the most important issues.

In a nationwide survey of 1,520 Hispanic adults, including 733 registered voters, the Pew survey found about half of Hispanic registered voters—54 percent—a candidate’s stance on immigration isn’t necessarily a deal breaker “if that candidate shares their views on most other issues.” Ranking ahead of immigration on the list of important issues: education, jobs and the economy, and health care.

Conventional wisdom puts the majority of Latinos firmly in the camp of the Democratic Party. And while Pew found Democrats maintained their advantage in the months before the run-up to the November mid-term elections, the edge enjoyed by the party had been “diminished,” according a Pew report published over the summer. The report identifies the cause as “more than a year of inaction by Congress and President Obama on immigration reform.”

Still, Hispanic leanings toward Democratic positions are still strong. On just the issue of immigration, for example, Pew reports that 50 percent of Hispanic registered voters say Democrats are better at “dealing with immigration, compared with 27% that name the Republican Party.” On the economy, Latino registered voters again skew toward the Democrats with 44 percent saying Dems are better, compared to 36 percent who say the Republican Party is better. Where foreign policy is concerned, 44 percent of Hispanic registered voters say Democrats are better suited to make “wise decisions,” while 32 percent say the Republican Party is the better party.

While the Pew study puts support of Latino registered voters behind Democrats at a greater than two-to-one advantage over Republicans—57 percent who supported Democratic candidates in their congressional district compared to only 28 percent who supported the Republican candidate—overall support of the group for Democrats was down from 2010. Four years ago, 65 percent of Latino registered voters backed Democrats in their congressional districts while only 22 percent leaned Republican at the time.

Pew describes its Hispanic Trends Project as an effort to “improve public understanding of the diverse Hispanic population in the United States and to chronicle Latinos’ growing impact on the nation.”