Latinos concerned about immigration, economy; feel unappreciated by Democrats

A girl inside Las Delicias on College Avenue in Fort Collins, Colo., on October 22, 2014.
A girl inside Las Delicias on College Avenue in Fort Collins, Colo., on October 22, 2014. MCT

Latinos nationwide remain firmly in the Democratic camp, but a good chunk of them say the party they generally support doesn’t really care about them, according to a new poll.

The pre-election poll of Latino likely voters asked respondents whether they thought the Democratic Party and the Republican Party “truly care” about the Latino community, whether “they don’t care too much” or whether they’re “sometimes hostile towards” it.

Democrats got more support than Republicans: 48 percent rated them as truly caring, compared with 22 percent for Republicans.

But a substantial percentage of Latino voters found the Democratic Party less than enthusiastic about them. Among respondents, 24 percent said Democrats didn’t care too much about them, 12 percent labeled them as sometimes hostile and 16 percent didn’t know.

“Many Latinos clearly feel ignored by the Democratic Party,” said Gary Segura, a principal and co-founder of Latino Decisions, which conducted the poll.

Among Latino likely voters in Florida, the trend was the same, although a little less pronounced. In Florida, the Democratic-Republican split on the “truly cares” question was 44 percent to 26 percent.

The poll results were released Wednesday, as Democrats around the country took stock of the shellacking they suffered in Tuesday’s midterm elections. The losses came even after President Barack Obama had delayed any immigration overhaul, a move designed to help Democrats in tight races but that instead might have alienated some Latino allies.

The perceived lack of love from Democrats comes in spite of Latinos’ support for the party. Asked what they considered themselves, 52 percent nationally said they were Democrats, 19 percent independents and 17 percent Republicans.

In Florida, the split was again less extreme, but a plurality still said they were Democrats – 39 percent – compared with 24 percent Republicans and 21 percent independents.

The poll also explored the mindset of Latinos who didn’t plan to vote despite being registered to do so.

Consider this statement, presented by pollsters to respondents who said they didn’t plan to vote: “The Democratic Party expects Latinos to vote for them, but is unwilling to take political risks or take a stand on behalf of immigrants.”

Among Latinos who didn’t plan to vote, 43 percent agreed with that statement and just 35 percent picked the alternative, which said the Democratic Party was “truly committed to immigrant rights and treats the Latino community like a priority.”

The poll, conducted by phone in the past week, comprised 4,200 respondents who’d voted early or indicated that they’d vote Tuesday. It included specific samples for 10 pivotal states: Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Kansas, Nevada, North Carolina and Texas. The overall poll has a margin of error of 1.5 percentage points, and each state has a margin of error of 4.9 percentage points.

Conducted by Latino Decisions, a research firm that’s previously explored Latino attitudes and voting trends, the poll was sponsored by several Latino and left-leaning organizations.

Respondents were asked their views on the most important issues of the 2014 elections.

In Florida, Latinos ranked the economy and jobs tops; 46 percent ranked it as one of the most important issues, while 39 percent said immigration restructuring was. Health care/Medicaid was third, at 19 percent, and education was right behind, at 18 percent. Respondents were able to select more than one item.

In every other state highlighted, Latinos put immigration at the top, followed by jobs and the economy. Nationally, 45 percent of respondents selected immigration and 34 percent picked the economy.

The poll also queried respondents on their views of potential 2016 presidential candidates.

Democrats Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden had more favorable than unfavorable assessments, with Clinton well ahead at 64 percent favorable.

Among Republicans, all were ranked more unfavorable than favorable, with favorability ratings for Sens. Marco Rubio of Florida, Ted Cruz of Texas and Rand Paul of Kentucky, as well as former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, in the 30s or lower.

Among Florida Latino likely voters, Bush was more favorable than unfavorable (56 percent to 30 percent), but views on Rubio were slightly negative (39 percent favorable, 42 percent unfavorable).

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