President Barack Obama's high-profile shift on immigration last week — announcing plans to grant temporary legal status to as many as 800,000 undocumented people brought to American soil as children — has the overwhelming support of likely voters in a new Bloomberg poll released Tuesday.
Sixty-four percent of them — and 66% of independents, the frequently up-for-grabs voters thought to decide elections — support the president's decision. The White House has forcefully (and rather implausibly) denied that Obama sought political gain from his announcement. But as recently as March 2011, he had said publicly that he lacked the power to halt such deportations.
The Bloomberg survey found that just 30 percent of likely voters disagreed with the president's plan. Fifty-six percent of likely Republican voters opposed it, while 86% of Democrats supported it. Just 26% of independents sided with the Republican majority in the poll.
The results surely cheered Obama's reelection campaign, which has been working to reassemble the victorious coalition that powered his history-making 2008 win — but faces an uphill fight in the face of deep pessimism about the economy.
The poll, which had an error margin of plus or minus 3.6 percentage points, also showed that immigration was the top issue of just four percent of voters — the sputtering recovery tops that list in every survey of public opinion. Obama enjoys a lopsided advantage over Republican rival Mitt Romney among Latinos. But while they are the fastest-growing voting bloc, and could decide the outcome in pivotal battleground states like Colorado, Florida and Nevada, Latinos have the lowest voter registration numbers of any major ethnic group in the United States. That means the president must energize them enough to register — and then encourage them to show up on November 6.
The challenge — and the stakes — are evident in Florida. A whopping 638,000 Latinos there are eligible to vote but have not registered, according to a recent report by the Obama-aligned Center for American Progress think tank in Washington. That's enough to make the difference in the Sunshine State.
Both Romney and Obama are due to visit Florida this week to address the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO) at the group's annual conference. The former Massachusetts governor will speak Thursday, followed by Obama on Friday.