Hispanic voters in Florida heavily favor President Obama, strongly back his immigration positions and are highly enthusiastic about voting, according to a new poll released Thursday.
Also, about half of all the voters know someone who is illegally in the country, according to the survey of 400 registered Florida Hispanics conducted by Latino Decisions for America’s Voice, a group that advocates for liberal immigration policies.
Obama pulls 61 percent Hispanic support compared to 31 percent for Republican Mitt Romney, the poll showed.
The Hispanic support measured in the poll mirrors other Florida surveys that show Obama with a large lead among this crucial and growing segment of the Florida electorate. Hispanics comprise about 14 percent of the active voter rolls. Still, this 30-point margin is the largest Obama lead to date.
Unlike other surveys The America’s Voice poll delves more deeply into the issue of immigration with Hispanics and shows how it appears to play in Obama’s favor.
“Latinos are more engaged in this issue of immigration regardless of where you live in the country,” said University of Miami political science professor Casey Klofstad, who studies the nuances of Florida’s Hispanic vote.
Among all voters, Obama and Romney are essentially tied in Florida, according to a recent Miami Herald/Tampa Bay Times poll and a Marist College survey that both show Obama with an inside-the-error-margin lead of a single percentage point.
The poll, conducted by Pacific Market Research, shows that Hispanic voters are like all others when it comes to their top concern: The economy and jobs.
But the second-most important issue for Hispanic voters is immigration reform and the DREAM Act, which would give some college- and military bound immigrants a path to citizenship even if they’re illegally in the country.
The DREAM Act failed in Congress where it was blocked in the U.S. Senate by a Republican-heavy filibuster.
When asked about Obama’s executive order to stop the deportation of some DREAM Act-eligible youths, 53 percent of Hispanic voters said it made them more enthusiastic about voting for him. About a third said it made no difference and 9 percent said they were less enthusiastic.
Hispanics were less likely to favor Romney for calling on illegal immigrants to “self-deport” back to their homelands.
Romney has been dogged by Obama who claimed the Republican called Arizona’s new immigration crackdown a “model” for the nation, but Romney’s comments targeted a different immigration law that requires employers to hire only legal workers cleared by a federal computer system known as E-Verify.
When asked about Romney’s support for self-deportation and Arizona’s immigration laws, 57 percent of Hispanic voters said it made them less likely to support him.
About 54 percent said they would be less enthusiastic about supporting Republican Senate candidate Connie Mack for saying he opposes “amnesty” and the DREAM Act; 13 percent said it would make them more likely to support him and 27 percent said it would have no effect on their vote.
In contrast, 61 percent said they’d be more enthusiastic about backing Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson for touting the DREAM Act.
Overall, Nelson leads Mack 53-32 percent — a smaller edge than Obama’s.
Klofstad noted that Florida’s largest Hispanic groups, those of Puerto Rican and Cuban descent, aren’t likely to be too directly affected by immigration when compared to Mexicans because Puerto Ricans are U.S. citizens and Cubans have a special immigration status.
Cuban voters tend to be more Republican and live in South Florida, while many Puerto Rican voters live in Central Florida and vote Democrat. Cubans remain the largest Hispanic group in Florida and accounted for about a third of the survey, which was conducted in Spanish and English. Because of the Cuban vote, Obama has a smaller overall lead among Hispanics when compared to other Hispanic-heavy swing states.
Regardless of heritage, there’s a good chance that, if you’re Hispanic, you know someone who’s undocumented.
About 49 percent of Hispanic voters said they know an undocumented immigrant and 49 percent don’t, according to the poll.
In showing diminishing support for Republicans, the poll reflects the voter-registration trends for Hispanics in Florida, where their ranks have grown by a total of 39 percent while the overall rolls have increased just 10 percent since 2006.
But the number of Republican Hispanics has only grown 12 percent, while the number of Democratic Hispanics have increased 60 percent and no-party-affiliation Hispanic voters increased 50 percent. NPA Hispanics now outnumber Republican Hispanics in Florida.
And Hispanics are energized about voting as well, with 70 percent saying their “very enthusiastic” about voting. And 57 percent say they’re more enthusiastic about voting this election than in 2008.
That’s welcome news to the Obama campaign, which has watched its support slip among non-white Hispanic whites. Obama lost the white vote 42-56 percent to John McCain in 2008 in Florida, but won Hispanics 57-42.
“I didn’t expect to see the enthusiasm that high,” Klofstad said. “That’s important to Obama’s chances in Florida.”