Immigration and Latino Public Opinion

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You might think that the Republican Party’s recent anti-immigrant tilt will kill it with Hispanic voters in the future. Or you might think that’s naïve—Democrats won most Hispanics despite John McCain’s pro-immigrant posture, and perhaps the GOP’s remaining support among Latinos comes from people who don’t like immigration. Plausible but, according to Patrick Egan’s read of the data, totally wrong:


The graph shows that there was virtually no difference in preferences over immigration policy between Latinos supporting Obama and McCain: on average, both sets of voters favored establishing a path to citizenship to about the same degree. The big difference is where they placed the candidates on the scale: Obama voters saw a big difference between the two candidates, McCain voters didn’t. The ANES also asked Latinos how important this issue was to them personally on a five-point scale. Here again there was no difference between McCain and Obama supporters: both groups rated immigration as a relatively important issue (group means for the two sets of supporters were both 3.3 out of 5).

This is interesting because a very large proportion of McCain-voting Latinos are going to be Cuban-Americans. And thanks to the politics of anti-communism, Cubans basically have an exemption from otherwise applicable immigration law and can move to the United States in unlimited quantities. So it would be totally plausible for them to have a different view of immigration. But it seems that most Cuban-Americans, even the right-wing ones, are like me and strongly support a more pro-immigration policy and think this is pretty important.