Latinos See Obama as Best to Handle Economy, Deficit and Foreign Crisis

Julie Jacobson/AP Photo

In a presidential campaign dominated by pocketbook issues, a majority of Hispanic voters nationally say President Barack Obama is better able to deal with the country's economic woes than his Republican challenger Mitt Romney, according to preliminary exit poll results.

Six-in-ten of all Latino voters (61%) named the economy as the top problem facing the country, outdistancing health care (18%), the deficit (12%), and foreign policy (6%) as voting issues. Among all voters, about an equal share named the economy (60%) while 17% named health care, 15% said the deficit, and 4% said foreign policy.

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Latinos and other voters had somewhat different views on the hot-button issue of immigration policy. Three-quarters of Latinos (74%) said employed illegal immigrants should be offered a chance to apply for legal status while 22% said they should be deported to their home country. A smaller but still substantial majority of all voters (64%) favored a path to legal status for employed illegal immigrants while 29% said they should be deported.

While all voters shared similar concerns, Hispanics differed from other voters in their perceptions of which candidate was best able to deal with the nation's economic problems. When asked which candidate would better handle the economy, more than six-in-ten (64%) named Obama while 35% said Romney. Among all voters, 50% favored Romney while 47% for Obama as the candidate best able to deal with the economy.

Hispanics also preferred Obama over Romney to handle the federal budget deficit (67% vs. 32%) and Medicare (65% vs. 32%). All voters split nearly down the middle: 50% preferred Romney to deal with the deficit while 46% favored Obama. On Medicare, about half (51%) said Obama would do the better job while 45% preferred Romney.

Latinos nationally also expressed more confidence in Obama than Romney to handle an international crisis. About seven-in-ten (69%) said they trusted Obama and 31% said they do not. When voters were asked the same question about Romney, 37% said they trusted him but 57% said they did not. Among all voters, 56% said they trusted Obama (43% did not) while 51% had similar confidence in Romney but 44% did not.

Latino voters were concerned with more than just policy issues on Election Day. Asked which quality mattered most in deciding their vote, a third (33%) said they were looking for a candidate with "a vision for the future" and 26% said they were looking for a candidate who "cares about people like me." Smaller proportions said they most valued a candidate who "shares my values" (20%) while 17% wanted "a strong leader." Among all voters, 29% wanted a candidate with vision, 28% sought someone with similar values, 20% wanted someone who cared, and 19% said they were looking for a strong leader.

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Overall, President Obama's approval rating among Hispanics stood at 66% in preliminary results while 32% disapproved. Among all voters, 52% approved of the job Obama was doing as president and 46% disapproved. Margin of sampling error is larger when results are based on only a portion of the sample.

These preliminary exit poll results are based on a total sample size of 1,336 Latinos and a total sample size of 15,863. Margin of sampling error for the sample of Latinos is approximately plus or minus 5 percentage points and plus or minus 2 points for the full sample.