The New York Times, Julia Preston
Latinos who are registered voters favor President Obama by 69 percent to 21 percent over Mitt Romney, according to a national poll published on Thursday by the Pew Hispanic Center. The margin has not changed during this year despite recent efforts by Mr. Romney to lure some Latinos.
Mr. Obama’s lead over his challenger among Latinos in the final stretch of the race is larger than his margin in 2008 over John McCain, the Republican candidate. Mr. Obama won 67 percent of the Latino vote then, and Mr. McCain won 31 percent.
The Pew survey was conducted from Sept. 7 to Oct. 4, one day after the debate where Mr. Romney performed far better than the president. The lift Mr. Romney has received since then is not reflected in the poll.
But there are indications that Mr. Obama’s big advantage among Latinos remains solid. Approval for the Democratic Party among those voters is at its highest level since the Pew center began asking survey questions on the issue in 2002, said Mark Hugo Lopez, associate director of the center, a nonpartisan research group in Washington. In the poll, 61 percent of Latinos said the Democrats had “more concern” for them, up from 45 percent in 2011. Only 10 percent now say the Republican Party is more concerned about Latino issues, the poll found.
The impact of Latinos in the presidential election will very much depend on their turnout. According to the Pew poll, they are likely to continue to vote at lower rates than the general public, with 77 percent of registered Latinos saying they are “absolutely certain” to vote. In a recent poll by the Pew Research Center, the parent organization of the Hispanic center, 89 percent of all registered voters said they were certain to cast ballots.
At the same time, the numbers of registered Latinos have grown by 4 million since 2008 to 23.7 million voters, making them a record 11 percent of the nation’s electorate, according Pew Hispanic Center figures.
Mr. Lopez said Latinos may seem less engaged than other voters because many live in states like California, Texas and New York that are not in play in the presidential contest and have not seen intense campaigning. In the elections in 2008 and 2010, Latinos made a difference by turning out in force at the last minute in some closely contested states.
In nine battleground states, Mr. Obama is leading Mr. Romney among Latinos by 65 percent to 23 percent, the Pew Hispanic poll found. Latinos could cast crucial ballots in three of those states — Colorado, Florida and Nevada — and their numbers have grown enough to make them a factor in North Carolina and Virginia. (The others are Iowa, New Hampshire, Ohio and Wisconsin.)
Mr. Obama’s standing among Latinos seems to have been bolstered by his move in June to grant reprieves from deportation and work permits to hundreds of thousands of young illegal immigrants who came here as children. In the poll, 89 percent of Latinos said they approved of that program. Three of every ten Latino adults said they knew someone who has applied for it.
Since June, Mr. Romney has tried to reach out to Latinos — especially in Florida, a crucial state for him — by softening positions he took during the primaries, when he said he would focus on tough enforcement and would veto the Dream Act, a proposal in Congress to benefit young illegal immigrants that is very popular among Latinos. Mr. Romney said he would give permanent residency to those immigrants if they serve in the military, and would consider other paths to legal status for them.
Last week Mr. Romney said he would stop the deportation reprieve program soon after he takes office, but he would work with Congress on a broader immigration overhaul.
The Pew Hispanic Center poll is based on a nationally representative bilingual telephone survey of 1,765 Latino adults, including 903 registered voters, with a margin of error for the full sample of 3.2 percentage points.