How Ignoring Immigration Reform Affected the Latino Vote

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Frustrations over the president's handling of immigration reform caused many Latinos to stay home on election day or vote Republican.
Frustrations over the president's handling of immigration reform caused many Latinos to stay home on election day or vote Republican.

Yesterday, Latinos declined as a percentage of all voters nationwide from 10 percent in 2012 to 8 percent in 2014. They also moved away from Democrats and towards Republicans. Although most Latinos still voted Democratic, the 44 percent margin they gave to Obama over Romney in 2012 was cut to only 28 percent yesterday. That may still seem like a large margin for the Democrats, but when combined with low turnout it indicates that the Latino vote was not strategically decisive in many races.

Polling on election eve by Latino Decisions of several battleground races found that although Latinos were still voting Democratic, they were doing so in declining numbers. According to Latino Decisions, in its poll of Latino voters:

A plurality of 45 percent of Latino voters nationwide said immigration reform was the most important issue facing the Latino community that politicians should address; 34 percent ranked the economy or job creation first, while 21 percent mentioned education/schools, and 17 percent said health care.

Even more telling is the fact that, according to Latino Decisions, “A combined two-thirds of Latino voters nationwide (67 percent) said that the issue of immigration was either the most important issue in their decision to vote and their candidate preference (33 percent said ‘the most’) or ‘one of the important issues’ (34 percent).  An additional 19 percent said immigration was ‘somewhat important’ while only 9 percent said immigration was ‘not really important’ to their voting decisions.”

Simply put, when President Obama decided not to issue an executive order protecting undocumented immigrants, he decided to turn off the Latino voter spigot. Fifty-eight percent of Latino voters know an undocumented immigrant and the issue of legalization is a personal and community matter to them. As Latinos told canvassers over the last several weeks, by not staking out a bold policy on immigration, the president took away a major reason for Latinos to vote. In addition, the news that Democrats in the Senate asked Obama not to issue an executive order brought a lot of resentment to the fore.

Over the next week, I’ll offer more of my thoughts on this troubling development.


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