DENVER – Despite taking controversial administrative steps to provide de facto amnesty to millions of illegal immigrants, and renewing a pledge to support a legislative effort that would grant legal status to millions more, President Obama’s poll numbers with Hispanic voters appear to be in free-fall.
A mid-November poll conducted by the Quinnipiac University Polling Center showed the President struggling with Hispanic voters — with 47 percent disapproving of his job performance compared to just 41 percent who said they approved. A December 10 poll released by Quinnipiac showed similarly lackluster numbers for Mr. Obama.
Another recent survey released by Gallup on December 5 showed the President’s job approval rating among Hispanics hovering at around 50 percent – a steep drop from the stratospheric 75 percent rating Obama enjoyed with the bloc in December of 2012.
While Mr. Obama’s popularity has taken a hit with most voters in the wake of his administration’s botched roll-out of Obamacare, that decline has been more pronounced with several key groups of swing voters – including Hispanics.
“Hispanics’ approval [of President Obama] has dropped 23 points over the last 12 months, the most among major subgroups, and nearly twice the national average,” said Gallup’s Jeffrey Jones in November. “[Obama’s] approval rating also showed above-average declines among low-income Americans, nonwhites, moderates, and moderates who identify with or lean toward the Democratic Party.”
The Gallup and Quinnipiac surveys seem to challenge the the conventional wisdom of political professionals who say that support for legalizing undocumented immigrants is a necessary to winning the support of Latino voters.
“The principal reason [Hispanics] go Democratic is the issue of illegal immigrants,” wrote conservative columnist Charles Krauthammer shortly after the 2012 election.
For Republicans to “adapt to evolving demographics,” Krauthammer added, “requires but a single policy change: Border fence plus amnesty. Yes, amnesty. Use the word. Shock and awe — full legal normalization (just short of citizenship) in return for full border enforcement.”
But Texas-based Republican strategist Carlos Espinosa says that political calculus may be overly simplistic.
“There is a tendency by a lot of people on either side of the aisle to interpret Hispanic distaste for some of the rhetoric out there as unequivocal support for amnesty, and that’s a mistake,” said Espinosa.
“Voting Hispanics are concerned about pocket book issues — especially in this economic environment,” added Espinosa. “Obamacare has only intensified those concerns.”
The results of a poll released by the Hispanic Leadership Network (HLN) late last year – when President Obama was relatively popular among Latinos – seem to underscore Espinosa’s analysis.
The HLN poll surveyed Hispanic voters in four states – Florida, Colorado, Nevada, and New Mexico – asking them to rank the importance of “immigration” among a list of several other issues. The result? Immigration clocked in behind issues like jobs and the economy, education, health care, federal deficits and the debt, and taxes.
“Politicians who think supporting amnesty is some kind of ‘silver bullet’ with Hispanic voters aren’t just panicking, they’re wrong,” Espinosa added. “Just ask McCain.”
Espinosa’s reference was to 2008 GOP presidential nominee and U.S. Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.), a longtime proponent of granting legal status to illegal immigrants. Despite McCain’s vocal support for easing immigration rules, he received just 31 percent of the Hispanic vote in his 2008 race against then-Senator Barack Obama.
By comparison, the GOP’s 2012 nominee Mitt Romney, who campaigned against granting legal status to most undocumented immigrants, earned only a slightly smaller share of the Latino vote –27 percent.
Immigration reform efforts in Congress have stalled since the Democrat-controlled Senate approved bipartisan legislation in June that would grant legal status to an estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants, authorize future spending on border enforcement, and make sweeping changes to the nation’s immigration laws. The Republican-led House of Representatives has yet to consider the proposal.
Most observers believe it is unlikely that the Senate proposal will be taken up by the House before the end of the year, but Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) offered a prediction to the Las Vegas Sun this month.
“This is an issue that isn’t going to go away…We have 11 million people here who are not going to be sent back to their country of origin. They can’t do that. They can’t do it fiscally. They can’t do it physically. It’s nearly impossible,” Reid told the paper, adding that House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) is “going to cave in.”
The Quinnipiac University Polling Center survey of 2,545 registered voters was conducted between November 6 and November 11, 2013 and has a margin of error of +/- 1.9 percentage points.
Results of the Gallup survey were “based on telephone interviews conducted Nov. 1-30, 2013, on the Gallup Daily tracking survey, with a random sample of 14,352 adults, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia,” according to the Gallup website. “For results based on the total sample of 1,185 Hispanics, the margin of sampling error is ±4 percentage points at the 95% confidence level.”
The HLN poll surveyed “400 Hispanic voters in each of four states – Florida, Colorado, New Mexico, and Nevada,” and was conducted between November 28 and December 7, 2012.