Ahead Of Election, Latino Voters See Immigration As A Top Issue

WASHINGTON -- Immigration remains a top issue for many Latino voters, and a personal one for those who know an undocumented immigrant, according to polling released on Tuesday by Latino Decisions.

The "election eve" poll of nearly 5,000 Latino voters found that two-thirds said immigration was either the most important issue or one of the most important issues in their decision to vote and in their choice of candidate. The survey was conducted by Latino Decisions and sponsored by a number of groups that are supportive of immigration reform.

Latino voters could have a major influence in tight races like the one between Democratic Sen. Mark Udall and his Republican challenger, Rep. Cory Gardner, in Colorado. But Latino voter preferences are also salient -- in some ways, more so -- as politicians look ahead to the 2016 presidential race.

Latinos were key to President Barack Obama's victory in 2012, in part attributed to his pro-immigration reform stances and to Republican candidate Mitt Romney's less-immigrant-friendly rhetoric and platform. The GOP's decision-making on immigration reform over the next two years could be shaped in part by Latino voters' thoughts on the issue.

Polling has consistently shown that immigration is a key issue for Latino voters, and that most prefer Democrats. Latino Decisions did not release information on party preferences of Latino voters in their release on Tuesday. But they did report that more than a third of Latino voters -- 37 percent -- said they were voting in 2014 to "support the Latino community" rather than a particular party. Thirty-four percent said they were voting because they wanted to support a Democratic candidate, and only 16 percent said they were voting to support a Republican candidate.

When asked what issue they thought was the most important facing the Latino community, 45 percent of those polled said immigration reform -- a higher proportion than those who said it was the economy, education or health care.

One reason that immigration reform may be so key to Latino voters is that they know people who are personally affected. The Latino Decisions poll found that 58 percent of Latino voters nationwide know an undocumented immigrant personally.

The poll was sponsored by America's Voice, Latino Victory Project, the National Council of La Raza, AFL-CIO, Mi Familia Vota, NALEO Educational Fund and People For the American Way.