PHOENIX -- The polling group Latino Decisions questioned 500 Hispanic registered voters across the country about the upcoming presidential election. Pollsters found that Hispanics are still gauging who to vote for next year.
Gabriel Sanchez, Ph.D, is a political science professor at the University of New Mexico and the research director at Latino Decisions. He says nearly half of those polled say immigration is a priority.
“Our polls are consistently suggesting if immigration isn’t the top issue, it’s second behind the economy and jobs,” Sanchez said. “And so, I think that is the one issue that’s somewhat specific to Latinos that’s likely to drive how they vote in 2012 and actually might even drive whether or not they vote.”
Leonor Camarena, a 19-year-old Arizona State University student, agrees with the poll results. The first time voter said the talk among her peers is about voting in the next presidential election. Immigration reform is the main reason why.
“A lot of things have come up involving Arizona and we’re finally being recognized," Camarena said. "So I feel that finally this will give us a chance with GOP candidates and with immigration becoming a big thing.”
The poll shows that 52 percent of Latino voters say the Democratic party is doing a good job in reaching out to Hispanics, compared to 17 percent who say the same about Republicans. But most revealing is how Republicans are perceived by Latinos.
"(A) pretty high percentage, almost a third of Latinos, think the GOP is actually hostile towards Hispanics right now,” Sanchez said.
The poll also shows that despite the positive view about Democrats in general, the study shows a different opinion of President Barack Obama.
The survey found 67 percent of Latinos said they approve of what the president is doing, a percentage that held steady throughout the year. But, only 43 percent say they’ll vote for him in 2012.
“That gap, in terms of the enthusiasm, particularly for President Obama is more problematic because it gives kind-of an open door for the GOP to be able to come in and mobilize some of these Latinos voters," Sanchez said. "And really it might also indicate that Latino turn-out might be a problem for the President.”
Alicia Garcia, 23, says she’s still undecided about voting next November and isn’t sure if Obama is the candidate she’ll support.
“(The 2008 election) was exciting. It was the first time I ever voted, so that’s even more exciting,” Garcia recalled. “And then, now, it’s just: 'Heh.' I don’t know much about what’s going on, I haven’t been following it. I’m not as excited.”
The poll shows only 9 percent said they are certain they will vote for a GOP candidate. Latino voters were also asked if their vote would change if U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, (R-Florida), a Cuban American, was nominated as the Republican vice-presidential candidate. Nearly half of the voters polled said no.