March 18, 2013 -- What role the Republican Party plays in comprehensive immigration reform will have an important impact on whether or not Latinos, a key political demographic, will consider voting Republican in the future, a new poll finds.
A recent poll by Latino Decisions, a firm that conducts research on Latino political opinions, reported that 32 percent of Latinos would be more likely to consider voting Republican in the future if comprehensive immigration reform passed. On a related note, 39 percent said they would be less likely to vote Republican if party leaders in the House of Representatives defeated reform efforts.
"[It] is in the interest of GOP leaders to deliver comprehensive immigration reform that actually makes them look better to the electorate," said Gary Segura, co-founder of Latino Decisions and director of Chicana/o Studies at Stanford University.
The rapidly growing Latino vote is a key political demographic. About 50,000 Latinos turn 18 every month and become eligible to vote. In the recent presidential election, nearly three-quarters of Hispanic voters backed President Barack Obama over Republican candidate Mitt Romney.
According to the poll, a significant portion of voters, even those who generally allied with Obama in the election, would consider voting for Republicans if the party helped to pass the immigration reform. Sharing this opinion were 26 percent of Obama voters, 35 percent of independents and 38 percent of voters under 40.
Similarly, if a bill passes the Senate but is defeated in the house, many of those polled said they would be less likely to vote Republican in the future. That opinion was voiced by 50 percent of Obama voters, 32 percent of independents and 36 percent of voters under 40.
"With only 23 percent of the Latino vote in 2012, the GOP could ill-afford to alienate further the few Latino votes it already receives,"said Segura.
Latino Decisions conducted phone interviews with 800 registered Latino voters across the country in February for the poll. It also found that immigration reform has risen above the economy as a top concern for the majority of Latinos. Fifty-eight percent of Latinos say it is the most important issue that political leaders should address, up from 35 percent in November. At that time, a majority of Latinos felt that jobs and the economy were the most important issue.
"The toxic rhetoric has affected all of us regardless of immigration status,"said Clarissa Martínez-De-Castro from the National Council of La Raza, the nation's largest Hispanic civil rights and advocacy organization."It is undeniable that because of the multidimensional impact that this is having on our community, it stands to shape the views of the nearly 900,000 Latino citizens who will turn 18 each year between now and 2028."
According to Segura, the report provides"really important political cover" for House Speaker John Boehner to put comprehensive reform to a vote, even though the majority of his party may not be on board, thereby breaking the unwritten"Hastert rule."
"I suspect [some Republicans] are going to allow the legislative process to move forward because the party needs it,"he said.
The most persuasive appeal for Republicans to embrace immigration reform came from the party itself. The Republican National Committee recently published a report outlining the party's problems and calling for the party to endorse immigration reform.
"If Hispanic Americans perceive that GOP nominee or candidate does not want them in the United States (i.e. self-deportation), they will not pay attention to our next sentence," it reads. "It does not matter what we say about education, jobs or the economy; if Hispanics think we do not want them here, they will close their ears to our policies."