Latinos voted for Democratic candidates by a two-to-one margin in Tuesday night’s election, the New York Times reported. Though Democrats received 64 percent of the national Latino vote, the exit poll also pointed to a Latino base that helped Republicans gain ground in some decisive races, suggesting some shift in Latino voting patterns.
Conducted by five television networks and the Associated Press, the exit poll found that Republican candidates in Texas, Colorado, and Georgia performed well among Latinos. Some 23 percent of Latinos, who make up 14 percent of Colorado’s voter bloc, turned out for Cory Gardner as senator. In Texas, where Latinos make up 17 percent of the state’s voter population, gubernatorial incumbent Greg Abbott took in a whopping 44 percent of the Latino vote. And in Georgia where Latinos make up only three percent of the voter population, both the Republican gubernatorial incumbent and Senate candidate took nearly half of the Latino vote.
A Latino Decisions poll found that 45 percent of Latino voters consider immigration reform to be the most important political issue, in part because the Latino community has a vested interest. At least 37.3 percent of the Hispanic population are immigrants. About 76 percent of the 11.7 million undocumented population are Hispanic. And at least 67 percent of Latino registered voters personally know an undocumented immigrant. That could possibly explain why candidates who emphasized pro-reform policies in the past received a big share of the Latino vote in some elections.
Gov. Rick Scott (R-FL) previously supported and signed into law an in-state tuition bill for undocumented immigrants and he received 45 percent of the Latino vote, according to the Latino Decisions poll. Scott edged out Charlie Crist in Florida’s gubernatorial race. Another possible reason that Latinos turned out in large numbers for Republicans in the midterm election is that because activists said that they would not vote Democrat because President Obama had delayed executive action on immigration reform.
But if President Obama’s delay gave Republicans ground in key states, they are not likely to retain that edge in the next election. Thus far, the GOP has resisted efforts to rally around immigration, some going so far as to campaign on deadly outbreaks and terrorists streaming across the border, in spite of its 2012 post-election minority outreach goals. Soon after Obama reaffirmed his conviction to act on immigration relief by the end of the year during a press conference Wednesday, Republicans criticized him for dooming the chances of permanent legislation from taking place. And even Republicans who previously emphathized with undocumented immigrants are moving faster and further away from that position. What’s more, the GOP has thus far stalled on immigration on a congressional level and neglected to make it a goal for the new Congressional session, despite the urgency for some Latino voters.
The exit poll also found that 57 percent of Americans would prefer to see undocumented immigrants be “offered a chance to apply for legal status,” a finding that jibes with other polls which show that a majority of Americans would like to see immigration reform.