Hispanic Voters A Growing Group In U.S.

Hispanic voters a growing group in U.S.
Hispanic voters have immigration reform on their minds as they expand their voting power, a poll showed.

By Trenton Daniel
The Miami Herald (FL), May 19, 2009

The country's Hispanic voting population is gaining political ground, rallying behind the new president, and keeping immigration reform close to its heart, according to poll results released Monday.

''It's a very personal issue,'' Sergio Bendixen, president of Bendixen & Associates, a Coral Gables-based consulting and research firm, said of immigration in a telephone news conference. “What's new in this poll is the growing intensity among Hispanic voters.''

In Spanish-English interviews with 800 Hispanic voters from Florida to California, researchers from Bendixen's group found that Hispanic voters identify more closely with the Democratic party than the Republican party, and that they view President Barack Obama as a leader sympathetic to immigration issues. The pro-immigration campaign America's Voice also sponsored the report.

Researchers interviewed Hispanic voters from 13 states from April 28-May 5. Fifteen percent of those interviewed lived in Florida, 29 percent in California, and 24 percent in Texas. The survey's error margin: 4 percentage points.

A central part of the survey was finding how the 12-13 million Hispanic eligible voters are casting ballots.

Although some Hispanic voters have sided with Republicans in the past, the report showed that a majority of those interviewed backed President Barack Obama. Sixty eight percent of respondents said they ''supported'' Obama in the 2008 presidential election, compared to 30 percent who supported GOP candidate John McCain.

Seventy-one percent of respondents said the Democratic Party best represents the opinion of the Hispanic community on immigration issues, compared to 11 percent who mentioned the Republican Party.

The survey also found that more Hispanic voters have shown up at the polls. In the 2008 election, 86 percent of the respondents said they voted, compared to 50 percent in the 2006 mid-term election.

For the 2010 mid-term election, when immigration is expected to be an important part of the political debate, 75 percent of respondents said they were ''very likely'' to vote. Sixteen percent said they were ''somewhat likely'' to vote, and seven percent said “not likely.''

Respondents were also asked about their views on national problems. Fifty-six percent said the country's weak economy weighed most heavily on them, and 13 percent cited wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Other worries included lack of access to health care, illegal immigration, the housing crisis, and low quality of public schools.

Fifty-nine percent of respondents said immigration was ''very'' important. Many respondents — 69 percent — said they knew undocumented migrants personally.

''This very much fits in with why the immigration issue is important to them,'' said Bendixen. “It's personal.''

Seventy-five percent said they felt anti-immigrant sentiment against Hispanics was growing.

So far, Obama has lifted travel restrictions to Cuba and visited Mexico to relay his concerns over drug-related border violence.

Seventy-five percent said he had done an excellent or good job on Hispanic issues. Seventeen percent said he had done a mediocre or bad job.