-- President Barack Obama has widened his considerable lead over Mitt Romney among registered Latino voters in five key swing states, according to a new poll of 2,000 voters by Latino Decisions and the pro-immigration reform advocacy group America's Voice.
Obama enjoys the biggest lead among Latino voters in Arizona, 74 percent of whom say they favor the president over Romney. On average, Obama is leading Romney 63 to 27 percent among Latinos in Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Nevada and Virginia. Analysts estimate that Romney would need at least 40 percent of the Latino vote overall to win the general election, although that estimate changes depending on turnout.
One factor behind the incumbent's significant lead may be an increase in enthusiasm for Obama following his announcement last week that he would offer immunity from deportation to as many as 800,000 young illegal immigrants who were brought to the country as children. Fifty eight percent of Latino voters surveyed between June 17 and 21st said they feel more enthusiastic about Obama now, compared to 9 percent who said they felt less enthusiastic about him. Overall, 60 percent of Latinos said they were "very enthusiastic" about voting in November, compared to 47 percent in a November 2011 Latino Decisions poll.
While Latino voters are all U.S. citizens and not directly affected by Obama's move, previous Latino Decisions polling has shown that more than half of all registered Latino voters know someone who is undocumented, and the vast majority favor a path to legislation for illegal immigrants in the country.
On Thursday, Romney spoke for the first time about his plans for immigration reform at a conference for the National Association of Latino Elected Officials (NALEO). His plan includes increasing visas for legal immigrants, a mandatory employment verification program, and a path to legalization for young illegal immigrants who enlist in the military. He criticized Obama's immigration plan as temporary and reversible, and said Democrats were taking Latinos' votes for granted. On Friday afternoon, Obama will address the same group.
The poll has a margin of error of 2.2 percentage points overall and 4.9 percentage points on the state-specific data.