GOP Candidates Losing To Obama Among Latino Voters

Republicans are learning that their hard line on immigration comes with a political price.

A new Pew Research survey shows all of the Republican candidates for President trailing President Obama significantly among voters from the nation’s fastest growing ethnic group:

President Obama holds a wide lead among Hispanic voters when matched against potential Republican challengers, even as widespread opposition to his administration’s stepped-up deportation policies act as a drag on his approval ratings among that group, according to a new poll.

The survey, conducted by the Pew Hispanic Center, revealed a general-election weakness for Republicans among an increasingly influential voting bloc — with former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney and Texas Gov. Rick Perry each winning less than one-fourth of the Hispanic vote in hypothetical matchups against Obama.

Obama leads Romney by 68 percent to 23 percent and Perry by 69 percent to 23 percent among Hispanic voters, with a margin of error of plus or minus 5.2 percentage points for the sample.

The president’s strong position with Latino voters comes even as Hispanic adults overall express disapproval with the way his administration is handling deportations of illegal immigrants, by 59 percent to 27 percent. (The margin of error among adults is plus or minus 3.6 percentage points.)

The United States has deported more than 1 million illegal immigrants under Obama, removing an average of nearly 400,000 per year — a record rate that has drawn criticism from immigrant advocates who charge that the policy is tearing apart families and punishing harmless workers. Administration officials have said they are targeting criminals for deportation.

Obama’s job approval rating has dropped among Hispanic voters by nine percentage points since last year, the survey found, dipping to 54 percent — in part because of a 15-point drop among Hispanic Democrats. His job approval among voters overall stood at 49 percent in a Washington Post-ABC News poll this month, meaning the president remains more popular among Hispanics than with the broader electorate.

“Many Latinos are aware that deportations are up, and among them the president’s approval rating is lower,” said Mark H. Lopez, associate director of the Pew Hispanic Center. “However, even among them, the president wins in head-to-heads against Romney and Perry.”

The findings suggest major challenges ahead for Republican strategists, many of whom believe the party cannot win the White House unless it slices into Obama’s support among Hispanics.

The results in the head-to-head matchups with Romney and Perry (no other Republican candidates were tested, apparently) are nearly identical to the breakdown of the Hispanic vote in 2008, which went for President Obama 67% to 31% for John McCain. More importantly, for the GOP, though, even when Latinos disapprove of the President’s policies, that still isn’t sending them into the arms of the Republican Party:

Even among those who disapprove of the way Obama is handling the issue of deportations, a majority support his reelection over either of these two potential Republican challengers. Obama would carry this group by 57% to 34% against Romney and 61% to 31% against Perry.

The survey also shows that identification with the Democratic Party among Hispanic registered voters remains strong. Two-thirds (67%) of Hispanic registered voters say they identify with or lean toward the Democratic Party, while 20% say the same about the Republican Party.

And when asked which party has more concern for Hispanics, 45% say it’s the Democratic Party, while 12% say it’s the Republican Party. The share that identifies the Republican Party as the better party for Hispanics is up six percentage points since 2010.

None of this is really surprising, of course. The Republican candidates for President have basically been stepping all over each other to prove which one of them is more anti-immigration. Even Rick Perry, who arguably has the most reasonable immigration position of any of the Republicans when it comes to issues like treatment of illegal immigrants and border control, has jumped onto the bandwagon by soliciting and touting the support of Maricopa County Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio. Outside the Presidential race, we’ve seen state legislatures in Arizona, Georgia, Alabama,  and South Carolina pass restrictive immigration laws that have caused legal immigrants and migrant farm workers to flee the state out of fear.  There has been talk on the state and national level about challenging those provisions of the 14th Amendment that bestow citizenship on anyone born within the territory of the United States, even if their parents are here illegally. Given all of that, it’s no surprise that Latino voters are running away from the GOP. In fact, earlier this year we saw a poll that suggested that Latinos aren’t so much Pro-Democrat as they are Anti-Republican. With only a few exceptions, the GOP is not acting in a way that would make Latino voters feel welcome.

When I’ve discussed this issue before with conservatives, the usual response is something along the lines of just sticking their heads in the sand. Typically, I’m told that “people don’t vote in groups,” so analysis like this doesn’t really mean anything. The problem is that there have long been real, demonstrated correlations between demography and voting behavior. We’ve seen it with race, gender, age, religion, and ethnic group. Denying that it occurs is not the answer, it seems to me. Instead, Republicans ought to be asking themselves why it is that an ethnic group that is only going to become more important in the United States in the coming decades is rejecting their party out of hand. It isn’t all about bad messaging, or media bias, or the existence of welfare. It’s because the Republican Party is perceived as anti-Hispanic because of the policy positions it has become identified with. Until that changes, the GOP is going to continue to see poll numbers like this and, as Latinos become a more important voting group in years to come, it’s only going to hurt the GOP more. You adapt, or you die.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2012, Race and Politics, Religion, US Politics, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. Stan says:

    I’m surprised that Republicans aren’t paying more attention to what happened in California not so long ago. If I remember things correctly, Pete Wilson came from behind to win a governor’s race during the 90’s by running a stridently anti-immigrant campaign. His victory was a disaster for Wilson’s political future and for California Republicans because of the memory of his campaign by Hispanic voters. It’s evident that Karl Rove knows about this, but he doesn’t seem to have had much like in educating his party.

  2. David says:

    This is going to be the republican party’s biggest mistake. Instead of embracing comprehensive immigration reform that addresses the actual issues, they, at least at the state level, went for checking people’s papers.

    This was an area that the republican party could have increased its base. Hispanics are generally more socially conservative and the GOP should appeal to them in greater numbers. Alas, I think that ship has now sailed.

  3. Nikki says:

    Is this really that difficult for Republicans to understand? When you dehumanize an entire ethnic population for political gain, please don’t act all surprised when that ethnic population refuses to vote for you (see black voters and the Republican party).

  4. James in LA says:

    @David: “This is going to be the republican party’s biggest mistake.”

    The list of mistakes is rather long, and many scream for First Place. But I would say for greatest damage caused, being unable to get more than 10% of the black vote and only 30-40% of the Latino vote is bad enough. It gets far worse when you realize this will continue with the GOP well into the future, as a critical mass of angry old people will first join their ancestors for it to fade.

    As constructed, the GOP will be gobbled up and replaced by a third (by then Second) party. All of their policies and rhetoric speak to an acceleration toward that destiny.

  5. de stijl says:

    Here’s why they Republicans failed to learn the lesson of California and immigrant bashing.

    Okay, let me pull on my armchair psychologist cardigan with the leather elbow patches. There we go. Hmm, something smells like pipe smoke.

    Sensible Republicans know that this issue will bury them, so many curb their rhetoric and behavior. But there are some (nice weasel words, right?) in the party who are Altemeyer-style Authoritarians who have a deep seated desire to harass, punish and banish The Other.

    They can’t help it. If you put a bottle in front of an alcoholic they will drink (or desperately want to). If you put a brownish person with a funny accent in front of an Authoritarian, well, you can guess the rest – just look at Arizona and Alabama.

    Maybe some part of them realizes that this is really bad long-term tactical move, but they do it anyway because it is who they are.

  6. James in LA says:

    @de stijl: “Maybe some part of them realizes that this is really bad long-term tactical move…”

    Long-term may be less than a decade for a lot of these folks. That aside, there is no need of inevitability concerning the GOP. But they would have to adopt positions which flout authoritarianism to come out of the wilderness. It’s becoming clear the new civil rights battles will be fought around government intrusion. And none of the current GOP candidates address it, except Ron Paul. No that is not an endorsement, simply a reflection.

    And so, the GOP Champion — we do not even need to know who they are — can turn around the train overnight by attacking the problem on all fronts: repeal the Patriot Act and Authorization of Forces. End the Drug War. Stop using credit reports for purposes other than the lending of money (e.g. housing, insurance, and employment). Repeal utterly the notion that should the President declare you “belligerent,” you can be locked away indefinitely. We doom the present and all future Presidents to ghastly mistakes otherwise.

    The high ground on these issues is yet unclaimed, and if t he GOP is looking for American legitimacy, start thinking about ways to put back the protective layers between us and government.

  7. Tsar Nicholas says:

    The struggle within the GOP between the rational factions and the irrational factions has been going on for quite some time. It goes all the way back to the John Birch Society wingnuts and the Goldwater-Johnson fiasco.

    The real problem for the GOP at present, in general and also specifically as applied to the Latino voter, is that with the advent of talk radio and the Internet the irrational factions have found each other and have metastasized into a critical mass of idiocy with loud microphones. That’s how you wind up with the bizarre dichotomy of having Latinos turning in lockstep away from the party in the immediate wake of having the most pro-Latino president in history, who just so happened to be a Republican. It’s also how you wind up with the likes of Sharron Angle, Ken Buck, Carl Paladino, Jim Miller and Christine O’Donnell, not to mention the likes of Cain and Gingrich being considered serious presidential contenders despite a mountain of evidence in plain view that their respective candidacies are live-action train wrecks.

    If Obama wins his reelection bid there’s a material possibility the GOP might be lost for decades in the political wilderness. The Limbaugh/Savage/RedState/Malkin/Levin demographic has proven that it’s incapable of being informed and rational adults when it comes to electoral politics. Palin could wind up the GOP nominee in 2016. She would lose in a preposterous rout. Then what? Rand Paul? Jim DeMint? Michele Bachmann?

    With the growing power of the Latino voting bloc, and with the GOP primary process having degenerated into abject lunacy, it’s entirely possible, barring a Watergate-style scandal or Democrat ineptitude along the lines of Jimmy Carter, that Democrats will hold the presidency not only through this decade but throughout the next decade too.

  8. andrew says:

    “If Obama wins his reelection bid there’s a material possibility the GOP might be lost for decades in the political wilderness.”

    Nah. Leftist policies don’t work. At some point a majority of people will be forced to vote in their interest and not just for skin color.

  9. ponce says:

    Not too long before Texas has a Hispanic plurality…

  10. Nikki says:

    At some point a majority of people will be forced to vote in their interest and not just for skin color.

    Yeah. White people really need to stop looking at the candidate’s skin color and get onboard with electing the best man for the job–you know…the BLACK guy.

    Meanwhile, these Germans appear to be horrified by our current crop of GOP candidates. And look! the vast majority of the candidates are white! Whodathunk?

  11. David says:

    @James in LA: Ok, how about the biggest mistake regarding a growing demographic in the last 10 years? They had already burned the African American bridge by then, hadn’t they?

  12. Wayne says:

    Big news, the sun rises in the east. Certain groups like Hispanics have voted for Democrats for some time now. Some of the other groups vote for Republicans. Wow what enlightenment.

    Republicans adopting the liberal’s policy agenda on immigration will not get them any more votes. The majority of Hispanics would still vote for Democrats. If the GOP promoted allowing illegal immigrants and felons to vote, they still would not get that voting bloc either. It will hurt the GOP not help them. But let’s hope the GOP and conservative voters are stupid enough to fall for such stupid arguments to support such liberal agendas, right? I’m not falling for it.

  13. David says:

    Comprehensive immigration reform is neither liberal or conservative. How it’s done could be either. The fact that Wayne automatically thinks its liberal demonstrates the problem with today’s GOP. “We’ll never get (insert group here), so who cares what the think or how X will impact them, it’s not like our candidates are actually supposed to represent everyone in their district, state, country.”

  14. An Interested Party says:

    Nah. Leftist policies don’t work.

    Well, we really wouldn’t know, as “Leftist” policies haven’t been enacted recently…what really doesn’t work is bigotry when the targets of said bigotry are able to vote…

    The majority of Hispanics would still vote for Democrats. If the GOP promoted allowing illegal immigrants and felons to vote, they still would not get that voting bloc either.

    How nice of you to refer to Hispanics, illegal immigrants, and felons all in the same thought…with views like yours, it is little wonder that the GOP has little to no success with minority voters…

  15. mattb says:

    @Tsar Nicholas: Excellent analysis, really smart stuff.

    On the other hand, @Wayne conviently forgets how Latino’s were being targeted for quite a while by the Republican establishment who knew that there was a significant amount of cross over on social and fiscal issues (one of the reasons that GWB was pushing so hard on intelligent immigration reform). Of course, this was before the southern strategy base went nuts and pinned all of the countries problems on brown people.

  16. Murray says:

    Conservative, religious, traditional family values, great work ethic: how did the Republicans manage to lose this group is beyond me.

  17. David says:

    @Murray: Stupidity, they’re not white, stupidity, or stupidity. Most of the answer is 1, 3, or 4. Which gave 2 a way to push it that way.

  18. Murray says:

    @David: I hear you. There was a time when the Hispanic people were mainly Republican. Indeed, the Republican party had a very progressive immigration platform. So much for a “big tent” and the pragmatism of Nixon – Reagan.

  19. ponce says:

    Nah. Leftist policies don’t work.

    Don’t tell the Communist Chinese that.

    America still need to borrow money off them to keep its capitalist economy afloat.

  20. Richard says:

    When you have red states implementing laws to basically make it a crime to drive while Hispanic, and you make rumblings about passing laws to deport people who were even born in this country (one wonders when the attacks on “anchor babies” will start getting pushed back to grandchildren, great grandchildren, etc.) it’s absolutely no wonder the GOPers are losing support.

    Their platform is one largely based on xenophobia.

  21. Richard says:


    Not too long before Texas has a Hispanic plurality…

    Something Perry and the GOP have been trying to offset with redistricting maps that weakens their voting impact.

  22. ponce says:

    Something Perry and the GOP have been trying to offset with redistricting maps that weakens their voting impact.

    They can try, but seeing as Texas is a probationary Confederate traitor state, they’d need the permission of the Obama administration to achieve that goal.

  23. superdestroyer says:


    The majority of Hispanics have never been Republican. When Texas went from being dominated by Democrats in the 1970’s to being a Repubican Sate in the 1990’s, the Hispanics stayed at home in the Democratic Party. Why else do you think that over 90% of elected Hispanics are Democrats and have always been Democrats.

    The Republicans did not lose anything with Hispanic voters because Hispanics have always been Democrats. In reality, Hispanics are the second most liberal voters in the U.S. only behind blacks. Even the few Hispanics in the Republican Party are to the left of the the rest of the party.

    The idea that Republicans should appeal to Hispanics by putting 20 million poor Hispanics on the voter rolls in order to get the support of somewhere between 30% and 40% of those voters is idiotic.

    Any Republican that supports open borders and amnesty is just supporting their own political extinction and is supporting higher taxes, more crime, poorer schools, more suburban sprawl, and a lower quality of life for most Republican voters.

  24. superdestroyer says:

    @James in LA:

    And what group currently inside the Democratic Party do you think would walk away from a party that controls $3.5 trillion of spending. As the government grows and become more powerful, no group will be able to financially afford to be seen as an outsider.

    It is much more likely that the U.S. will become a one party state rather than have large segements of the Democratic party leave it to join a new political party.

  25. James in LA says:

    @superdestroyer: “It is much more likely that the U.S. will become a one party state rather than have large segements of the Democratic party leave it to join a new political party.”

    For many conservatives, this defines “Armageddon,” in which Rapture permits us to set aside our responsibilities in the present for those in a manufactured after life open to a tiny blessed few (say, 1%), and abject misery for the rest of us.

    It’s also drone-speak and ignores the vitality of our Constitution. Money is not the end-all, be-all you make it out to be. Money is not driving over half a million people in WI to sign their names against a politician who lies, lies, and then lies again, in public, on the phone, wherever he speaks.

    The GOP’s trouble is they are focused on issues that are at least 50 years out of date. They need to get with the times. The new battles will be about different things, and the the high ground has not yet been claimed. The need is to really get over seeing the American world through the lens of race. This is no longer relevant.

  26. superdestroyer says:

    @James in LA:

    A governor in Wisconsin being recalled over union wages and benefits is all about the money. The unions want the political power to extract goodies from the government.

    The idea that non-whites will ever vote over any issues that does not involve money and ethnic privilege is naive.

    Please point to a Democratic primary where the black or Hispanic vote split between two white candidates. I doubt if you can find one.