Latino voters will blame Republicans if immigration reform fails to pass, according to a poll released Tuesday.
A survey of 800 registered Hispanic voters by pollster Latino Decisions on behalf of the Center for American Progress Action Fund, a progressive think tank, found that 49 percent of respondents would place the blame for failing to pass immigration reform on the GOP, while 16 percent would hold Democrats responsible. The Republican Party could boost its standing among Latino voters by getting behind reform efforts, the poll indicated.
The survey provided yet more evidence that the issue of immigration reform matters to Latino voters and will influence their perception of both political parties as the 2014 elections approach. In a slideshow presentation of the results, the pollsters predicted that if House Republicans refuse to allow a vote on immigration reform, they will “only further their image as anti-immigrant and anti-Latino.”
“The Republican Party really stands to lose a lot of ground if they continue to appear as obstructionists,” co-founder of Latino Decisions Matt Barreto said Tuesday on a conference call with reporters.
Some 71 percent of Latino voters said it is either “very or extremely important” to pass comprehensive immigration reform this year, according to the poll.
The U.S. Senate passed a bipartisan comprehensive immigration reform bill last year, supported by the White House, that included both a pathway to citizenship and more than $40 billion in increased spending on border enforcement.
But the measure has been stuck in the House of Representatives, where many in the Republican majority oppose it. Latino voters have taken note, with 68 percent of the poll’s respondents saying they disapprove of House Republicans’ handling of immigration. By contrast, 54 percent of respondents approve of Obama’s handling of the issue, and 49 percent approve of the way House Democrats handled it.
Jorge Ramos, a popular anchor for Univision News with significant influence among Hispanics, has repeatedly blamed House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) for the failure to pass immigration reform, pointing out that Boehner has refused to allow the Senate bill to the floor for a vote.
The poll didn’t contain just doom and gloom for Republicans, however. The results indicated that Latinos would be more sympathetic to the GOP if the party were to support immigration reform. Some 61 percent of respondents said they would be more likely to listen to what the party has to say on other issues if Republicans in Congress help pass an immigration reform bill.
Democrats continue to struggle with the issue as well. While the survey said Latino voters hold Republicans more responsible for the impasse over immigration reform, a separate poll released earlier this month by Latino Decisions showed that young Hispanic voters who were aware of Obama's record-setting number of deportations view the Democratic Party less favorably.
The Republican National Committee recognized in an “autopsy report” following the 2012 presidential election that the party’s opposition to immigration reform had alienated Latino voters. The report recommended boosting outreach and supporting comprehensive reform.
The RNC has bolstered its efforts to cultivate the Latino vote by establishing permanent Hispanic outreach staff in seven states. Several prominent national Republicans, including Sen. Marco Rubio (Fla.) and Rep. Paul Ryan (Wis.), have thrown their support behind bipartisan efforts at reform.
In some races, however, conservative voters continue to throw their support behind immigration hawks, putting forth the kind of message the pollsters say will alienate Latino voters.
Texas state Sen. Dan Patrick (R-Houston), who has repeatedly warned of a "Mexican invasion," handily won the state's GOP nomination for lieutenant governor. Tea-party-affiliated candidate Tim Donnelly, who has accused undocumented immigrants of launching an “insurgency,” is in a neck-and-neck race for the GOP gubernatorial nomination in California.
“We continue to find that Republicans have an opportunity to repair their image among Latinos,” Barreto said. He added that, to reap the benefit, the party “must demonstrate leadership” on immigration reform.