Romney Trailing Obama Among Hispanics By Wide Margin

The GOP has a serious problem with the Latino vote, and it may too late to fix it.

It’s been rather evident for quite some time now that the GOP has a huge problem with Hispanic voters, and it has only gotten worse as the party has continued to emphasize a hard-line stance on immigration enforcement, opposition to legislation like the DREAM Act, and support for the restrictive laws enacted by states like Arizona, Alabama, and Georgia. You really only have to look at the numbers to see the problem. In 2000, George W. Bush managed to garner 38% of the Latino vote. In 2004, he increased that margin to 44%, among the highest percentage any Republican Presidential candidate has gotten since the Latino vote started to become a major factor in elections. By 2008, though, there were signs of increasing dissatisfaction with the GOP when John McCain, who had generally been very much in favor off immigration reform prior to his Presidential run, garnered just 31% of the Latino vote.  In March, eyebrows were raised when a Fox News Latino poll showed a Republican candidate getting only 14% of the Latino vote against President Obama.  Now, we have a now poll from NBC News, The Wall Street Journal, and Univision showing that Mitt Romney is trailing Barack Obama among Latino voters by an astounding thirty-four point margin:

Less than six months before November’s presidential election, President Obama enjoys a sizable lead over Mitt Romney among Latino voters, according to a new national NBC News/Wall Street Journal/Telemundo poll of Latino respondents.

The challenge for the Obama campaign, however, will be turning out these voters, who aren’t as interested in the election as all other Americans are.

In this survey, Obama holds a 34-point lead over Romney among registered Latino voters, 61 to 27 percent. In 2008, according to the exit polls, Obama defeated McCain among this key voting bloc, 67 to 31 percent.

In addition, Obama’s approval rating among all Latino adults stands at 61 percent (compared with 48 percent of all Americans in the new NBC/WSJ poll), and approval of his handling of the economy is at 54 percent (versus 43 percent overall).

Meanwhile, Romney is struggling with Latinos, the poll shows. Just 26 percent view him positively, while 35 percent see him in a negative light. By comparison, Obama’s positive/negative score among Latinos is 58/23 percent.

What’s more, this demographic group is more optimistic about the economy and the nation’s direction than the general population. Forty percent of Latinos believe the country is headed in the right direction (versus 33 percent of all Americans in the NBC/WSJ poll), and 46 percent of them say what they’ve read and heard recently makes them feel more optimistic about the economy (versus 42 percent).

All of this is good news for Obama, and rather bad news for Romney, for obvious reasons. Although the Latino population is still a relatively small portion of the voting population as a whole, in 2008 self-identified Latino’s comprised 8% of voters according to national voters, they are much larger populations in specific states, including states that will be “swing states” in the November election. In 2008, they were 13% of the total voter population in Colorado, 14% of the total voter population in Florida, 41% of the total voter population in New Mexico, 15% of the total voter population in Nevada, and 5% of the total voter population in Virginia. A substantial GOP deficit among this demographic group could end up having a substantial impact on the outcome of the election.

None of this should really be surprising, of course. Ever since the immigration reform effort led by John McCain, and supported by President Bush, failed due to conservative opposition to anything that appears to be “amnesty” for illegal immigrants, Republican rhetoric on the issue of immigration has become more and more restricionist. There was no better example of this than during the recently concluded race for the Republican nomination when candidates like Newt Gingrich, Herman Cain, and Mitt Romney sought to outdo each other in the kind of policies they would advocate to get rid of illegal immigrants and keep them out of the country, while Rick Perry found himself being ostracized by his own party for advocating policies that acknowledged that there is no easy solution to this problem. Mitt Romney’s “self-deportation” won the day, which isn’t surprising that this is the same Republican party that brought us the restrictive immigration laws enacted by states like Arizona, Alabama, and Georgia, all of which have resulted in a negative backlash from the Hispanic population in the state and a host of completely foreseeable economic consequences due to the loss of migrant labor. That’s why Republicans like Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio have been warning for some time now that the party needs to change its tone, and in some cases its policies in this area unless it wants to lose the Latino population for a generation or more.  That advice has been largely ignored. Instead,  Republican candidates for President barely bothered to court Latino voters, instead choosing to seeksu pport from the people who backed those controversial immigration bills that are in part the source of their problems with Latino voters. So the situation that we see in the polling is that Latino voters are backing Obama not so much because they support him, but because they find him far better on the issues that they care about than the Republicans. It’s all a potential disaster in the making, and is all the fault of the Republican Party.

Of course, that doesn’t mean that the Obama campaign should be popping champagne corks over this poll, because it also reveals that they’ve got some work of their own to do:

Here’s a troubling sign for the Obama campaign: Latinos aren’t as excited about the upcoming election. A combined 68 percent of Latino voters say they are highly interested in the upcoming election (registering an “8”,”9″, or “10” on a 10-point scale). That’s compared with 81 percent of all voters who express high interest.

This may be due in no small part to the fact that President Obama has also been somewhat of a disappointment for these voters.  Despite promises during the campaign, the President has done nothing to push for passage of the DREAM Act, although its worth noting that the measure ultimately died in the senate due to a Republican filibuster. There also hasn’t been a broader push for immigration reform over the past three years, and the odds of Obama being able to accomplish something like that in a second term seem slim indeed unless the Congress somehow manages to switch back to Democratic control, which seems unlikely. Additionally, deportations have actually been proceeding at a faster pace under President Obama than they did under President Bush. So, the Latino vote is potentially a valuable resource for the President in the upcoming election but he’s going to have to do some work to get them to go out to the polls and vote for him. As for the Republicans, I’m not sure what they can do short of fundamentally changing their position on issues of great importance to the Latino community, and that simply isn’t going to happen.

FILED UNDER: 2012 Election, Public Opinion Polls, Race and Politics, 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. al-Ameda says:

    Republicans spent most of their recently concluded debate season all but accusing every hispanic or latino person in America of being an illegal immigrant so this polling should come as no surprise to any one.

    Now, in the run up to the convention, we’re going to be treated to the ridiculous speculation that Republicans can alleviate this problem by putting Rubio on the ticket.

  2. Hey Norm says:

    Romney will just shake the Etch-a-Sketch and wipe away all the Republican xenophobia. No problemo.

  3. Hey Norm says:
  4. Latino_in_Boston says:

    I only see this getting worse for Romney and the Republican party. Not only have they politicized a huge block of young people that might not have voted otherwise, but they keep promising things to their base which cannot possibly happen. Thus leading to frustration and increasingly more draconian and anti-Latino policies in a perpetual cycle. I look forward to the day Texas becomes a swing state, which will not be long from now.

  5. “The GOP has a serious problem with the Latino vote, and it may too late to fix it.”

    Not only do i think that the party, in general, has no interest in fixing the situation, they (as you note) continue to actively work to make the situation worse.

    It also occurs to me that this does make for an interesting intersection to James’ recent post on the GOP and race.

  6. PD Shaw says:

    What good does it a man’s soul to win Sante Fe and lose Des Moines?

  7. PJ says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    As for the Republicans, I’m not sure what they can do short of fundamentally changing their position on issues of great importance to the Latino community, and that simply isn’t going to happen.

    The answer seems to be nothing.

    Mitt Romney addressed a luncheon hosted by the Latino Coalition Wednesday, a conservative group of business owners. Speaking in a lavish marble hall with flags celebrating America’s great explorers on the walls and free tequila on the audience’s lunch tables (the group’s chairman, Hector Barreto, owns a liquor company), Romney’s speech was notable for what it left out: Immigration was not mentioned once, either in the address or in a pre-screened Q&A session.

  8. KariQ says:

    It seems pretty clear that the Republicans’ strategy for dealing with this is to maximize their vote among whites and trot out the occasional token minority to prove that they aren’t racist.

  9. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @PD Shaw:

    What good does it a man’s soul to win Sante Fe and lose Des Moines?

    PD…. Sante Fe is the future, Des Moines is the past. Which will track the future of our country?

    (And yah…. that was rhetorical….)

  10. Latino_in_Boston says:


    You beat me to that very observation, Hillbilly. The Republicans are selling something which only appeals to a rapidly shrinking part of the electorate. There’s plenty of tea party types, GOP diehards I’ve talked to who are convinced that if we want the economy to improve all we have to do is deporting all people here illegally. We’d save billions they say. Hell, a significant portion of our deficit would disappear if we only deported them all. And why do they believe this? Because they have been told this over and over in the right-wing blogosphere, talk radio etc.

  11. Woody says:

    I see this as another facet of the overall purity movement within the Republican Party. There has been a remarkable purge of ideological, religious, and economic heretics – why not race as well?

    I’ve seen an awful lot of pixels prognosticating the ruin of the GOP over this. However, as any decent AP Government course will teach, a potential group’s large size is often a weakness in getting preferred policy passed, or a preferred candidate elected. A smaller group with strong cohesion activates much more effectively, particularly when they believe they are under threat.

    Remember, this party is still strongly influenced by Karl Rove – the great splitter of the modern electorate. His outfit is built almost entirely on deactivating the Democrats’ demographic advantage over a long period of time.

  12. @Latino_in_Boston:

    There’s plenty of tea party types, GOP diehards I’ve talked to who are convinced that if we want the economy to improve all we have to do is deporting all people here illegally. We’d save billions they say.

    Which again demonstrates the phoniness of the Tea Party’s support for capitalism. What country ever made itself wealthier by destroying its own captial resources?

  13. superdestroyer says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    You always avoid the issue is how can any conservative party appeal to Hispanics when Hispanics are so liberal. How can any conservative party support ethnic set asides, open borders, demand that others speak Spanish, high taxes, and high entitlements.

    If Hispanics showed any interest in conservative politics, Republicans would be interested in appealing to them but when Hispanics are very liberal, there is nothing that any conservative party can do.

  14. @superdestroyer: The problem with your “argument” is that it assumes that ethnicity/race determines ideology and hence you say “Hispanics are so liberal,”

    The problem is not that Hispanics find all conservative ideas anathema, it is that over the last decade the GOP had done nothing to court Hispanics, and indeed have done quite the opposite.

    If Hispanics showed any interest in conservative politics, Republicans would be interested in appealing to them

    Hispanics, as a demographic group, tend to be socially conservative, for example.

    Your problem, and why I don’t spend a lot of time trying to engage you, is that you views are so thoroughly race-based that you really can see nothing else (nor does it seem you have real interest in doing so).

  15. superdestroyer says:


    If Texas is a swing state, then the Democrats have a lock on enough states to make the U.S. a one party state.

    The real question that no one ever wants to discuss is how does a any conservative party appeal to a demographic group that has such low academic performance, that has a single mother birth rate of 50%, and commits crime at a rate about 4 times higher than whites, and that are generally much poorer.

    What can any conservative party do when the Democrats say that they will tax the rich (read whites) and give the money to Hispanics.

  16. superdestroyer says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    I am not surprised that no one at outsidethebeltway or any other moderate blog has posted about Romney’s embarrassing failure at reaching out to blacks

    My guess is that the conventional wisdom will be that is Romney had tried harder to just said the right thing, it would have been ineffective. What no consultant is willing to do is admit that appealing to blacks is a total waste of time for conservatives and will always backfire and lead to embarrassment.