Despite immigration being frequently – and controversially – talked about by the GOP candidates for the presidential nomination, Latino voters are not very excited by the 2012 presidential race, according to a recently released Latino Decisions poll.
The poll found 44 percent of Latino voters said they are very enthusiastic about participating in the 2012 election, which was down from 50 percent in an August poll and 47 percent in October.
“None of the Republican candidates has awakened the interest of Latinos,” said Gabriel Sanchez, a University of New Mexico political scientist. “As far as Obama, his approval among Latinos has remained stable. Perhaps we’re not as enamored with him as before, but in reality what the poll showed is that his philosophy is more consistent with that of Latino voters than what they are hearing from the GOP.”
Sanchez’s observation is unlikely to cause much surprise, considering that GOP candidates have been competing to prove their toughness on the question of immigration. Though he later said he was joking, former front-runner Herman Cain – who recently suspended his campaign – proposed a deadly electrified fence along the U.S. border with Mexico. Texas Governor Rick Perry’s campaign recently publicized the endorsement of Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who has a notorious reputation for harsh enforcement of immigration laws.
While the GOP candidates’ hard-line stances and inflammatory rhetoric may have alienated many Latino voters, President Obama’s support might not be as robust as it he would like it to be. According to Latino Decisions, Obama may need to capture more than 75 percent of the Latino vote to make up for erosion of support from other demographics, and in the latest poll, only 54 percent of Latino voters said they would certainly vote for him.
In a recent interview with the Huffington Post, Obama’s campaign chief, Jim Messina, said he is confident of the president’s support among Latinos.
“They understand this president has made a good-faith effort to pass comprehensive immigration reform, and the other side has had a debate on how to campaign against them in the primaries,” Messina said.