Ann Coulter has given up on the Latino vote.
In an opinion piece riddled with errors and unattributed statistics, the conservative columnist lashed out at Republicans working to pass comprehensive immigration reform with a pathway to citizenship, saying that Latinos will never vote for the GOP because they are too poor and government-dependent.
Coulter begins her article by grossly overestimating the undocumented population, asking “why do Republicans want to create up to 20 million more Democratic voters, especially if it involves flouting the law?”
There's also no reason to assume that undocumented Latinos would automatically vote Democrat if they gained citizenship. Not all U.S. Hispanic citizens vote and some 27 percent of them voted for Mitt Romney in last year’s presidential election.
Repeating a line routinely offered by the Mitt Romney presidential campaign last year, Coulter notes that polls indicate that immigration is not the number one concern for most Hispanics.
But that doesn’t mean it’s a non-issue for Latino voters, as Coulter claims when she says “Trying to appeal to Hispanics with amnesty would be like trying to win over baseball fans by shouting ‘Go Yankees!’ at a Mets game.”
In fact, the overwhelming majority of Latino voters favor both a pathway to citizenship (85 percent) and the DREAM Act (90 percent), according to a Fox News Latino poll released last year.
While the issue doesn’t trump the economy and jobs, the biggest concerns for most Hispanic voters, immigration remains an important and often personal issue for most Latinos. More than eight in 10 undocumented immigrants are Hispanic, according to the Pew Hispanic Center. Supporting a path to citizenship may not guarantee that Latinos will flock to the GOP, but taking hardline on immigration tends to alienate Hispanic voters.
Perhaps an even greater turn off for Latinos is being portrayed by conservative commentators like Coulter, Rush Limbaugh and Bill O’Reilly as lazy and government-dependent -- a characterization based on stereotype rather than evidence.
Coulter takes this approach in Wednesday’s column:
So why do Hispanics vote Democratic? Like most legal immigrants since Teddy Kennedy's 1965 Immigration Act, Hispanic immigrants are poor. The poverty rate of second-generation Hispanics is lower than the first -- but the third generation's poverty rate is higher than the second.
Coulter offers no evidence to support the claim. In fact, each generation of Latinos tends to become better off socioeconomically than the one before it, according to a 2011 study by the Migration Policy Institute.
“If Republicans think we can have mass amnesty for millions of government-dependent immigrants and become a more libertarian country, they're crazy,” Coulter continues.
In fact, Latinos use less than their fair share of government benefits. According to a study released this year by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities:
Non-Hispanic whites accounted for 64 percent of the population in 2010 and received 69 percent of the entitlement benefits. In contrast, Hispanics made up 16 percent of the population but received 12 percent of the benefits, less than their proportionate share -- likely because they are a younger population and also because immigrants, including many legal immigrants, are ineligible for various benefits.
Coulter correctly notes that Latino voters tend to lean liberal, both on the size of government and on many social issues. But that doesn’t mean Republicans can’t fare better among Latinos.
George W. Bush, himself a champion of comprehensive immigration reform, won 40 percent of the Latino vote in 2004. Ronald Reagan won 37 percent two decades earlier.
Observers generally agree that Mitt Romney’s dismal 27 percent of the Hispanic vote was owed to the hardline immigration positions he staked out during the hard-fought GOP primary. Doubling down on those positions, as Coulter advocates, isn’t likely to boost Latino support for the Republican Party.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story incorrectly said that 27 percent of undocumented immigrants, rather than U.S. Hispanic citizens, voted for Mitt Romney last year's presidential election. The story was corrected at 4:10 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 21, 2013.