Most Latino voters aren't sure what Mitt Romney thinks about Arizona immigration law SB 1070, which he has repeatedly declined to officially support or condemn, according to a poll released Monday by Latino Decisions.
But his statements on SB 1070 could be damaging nonetheless, the poll found, with 57 percent of Latino voters saying they were less enthusiastic about Romney based on what he has said about the law.
Romney is far behind Obama with Latino voters, and his stances -- or lack thereof -- on immigration don't appear to be helping. Though the issue isn't the top-ranked priority for Latino voters, the poll released Monday showed that it can influence enthusiasm, important to both candidates as they try to draw Hispanics to the polls in November.
"These findings paint a pretty clear picture that immigration-related issues are a defining mobilizing issue for this fast-growing group of voters," America's Voice Executive Director Frank Sharry said on a call with reporters. "Mitt Romney has handled this issue in a way that's really hurt him."
The poll was done for pro-immigration reform groups America's Voice and the Center for American Progress, with 504 phone interviews in English and Spanish. Latino Decisions released results of one section of the poll last week, announcing that 70 percent of respondents said they favor Obama, over 22 percent who prefer Romney.
Latino Decisions found that more voters who knew about Obama's stance on SB 1070, the Arizona law his Justice Department successfully blocked in part through a federal lawsuit, rank themselves as very enthusiastic compared to those who do not know his views.
Latino voters aren't very convinced by arguments for SB 1070 -- 70 percent said they disagree that the law could make Arizona more safe, while only 27 percent said they think it would make the state less safe, according to the poll. Strong majorities also said they believe the law would make it likely for legal immigrant or U.S. citizen Latinos to be stopped or questioned by police, and may make immigrants less likely to call the police.
On immigration in general, most Latino voters said they trust Obama more to handle long-term immigration reform, according to the poll. Romney was chosen by only 19 percent of respondents, while 63 percent picked Obama.
There's at least one good sign -- however minimal -- for Romney in the Latino Decisions poll. A stronger majority of those planning to vote for Romney over Obama, 67 percent versus 58 percent, said they are very enthusiastic about the candidate.