NALEO Survey: Significant Numbers of Latinos Remain Undecided in Battleground States

“Obamanos,” Latino Support for Obama in Espanola, N.M.
NPR
PHOTO by Ben Bergman/Morning Edition

With the presidential race increasingly focused on states where Latinos are a big chunk of the electorate, the latest survey released by the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO) shows there are still significant numbers of Latinos who are undecided in those key states. [You can download the report in pdf here.]

The survey included registered voters in Colorado, Florida, New Mexico and Nevada. According to NALEO, Latinos in those states may vote “in unprecedented numbers”: nearly ninety percent of Latino registered voters are almost certain they will vote on Nov. 4.

[Both campaigns are releasing their Spanish-language ads mostly in these states, while Latinos in other regions of the country don’t receive as much attention. As I reported recently in a story in the New York Daily News, Latinos in other states are not so highly energized about voting this year.]

Arturo Vargas, Executive Director of the NALEO Educational Fund, said in a press release:

In key battleground states, Latino voters are ready to vote in huge numbers, and a significant percentage is still persuadable. Underestimating the Latino vote could be disastrous for either party.

The top priority for most of the voters surveyed by NALEO is the economy. “The severe downturn in the housing and mortgage sector is likely to impact many Latinos,” the study says. Other issues of importance are the war in Iraq, health care and immigration reform. This represents little change from earlier polls, which had shown -even before “bailout” was in our daily lexicon- Latinos’ top issue was the economic downturn.

Looking at undecided Latino voters state by state, here’s what’s up:

The West is blue. Barack Obama enjoys strong support from Hispanics in Colorado (63% to John McCain’s 15%), New Mexico (61% to 20%) and Nevada (55% to 14%).

Florida is another story. “In Florida,” NALEO says, “the battle for the Latino vote is nearly a statistical tie at 38% for McCain and 35% for Obama.”

Still… Voters who remain undecided or “only indicate not so strong support” for a candidate are: one in five in Colorado and New Mexico; one in four in Florida; and nearly one in three in Nevada. [NPR says Obama’s campaign is putting a “major focus” on New Mexico.]

The numbers would seem to provide a glimmer of hope for John McCain, except when compared to President George W. Bush’s historic (for a Republican) 40% performance among Hispanic voters in 2004.

As both Politico and The A.P. noted recently, Latinos seem to be turning a cold shoulder to McCain after his change of heart regarding immigration reform.

This is how Sam Rodriguez, the president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference and a prominent supporter of George W. Bush in 2004, explained it to Politico‘s Ben Smith,

“I feel bad for McCain. We find ourselves between the proverbial rock and the hard place. We really like John McCain. We really don’t like the Republican Party.”

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