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Latino voters eyeing lawmakers on immigration

WASHINGTON -- A significant majority of Latino voters list immigration overhaul as a crucial issue and would be less likely to support a candidate who blocked efforts to pass immigration reform, according to a new survey.

A majority of Latino voters polled, 54%, said they would be less likely to support a candidate in the 2014 midterm elections who opposed an immigration reform bill that included a pathway to citizenship for immigrants in the country illegally, according to the survey released by the Public Religion Research Institute, a nonprofit organization based in Washington.

The effort to pass a broad immigration overhaul has stalled in the GOP-controlled House. Republican leaders in Congress have said they will not take up the immigration bill the Senate passed in June and will instead consider a raft of more narrow bills to change specific elements of immigration laws.

“The Democratic Party has a significant perception advantage over the Republican Party,” wrote the study’s authors.

Almost half of the Latino adults polled, 48%, held negative views of the GOP. That compared with 22% who had a negative view of the Democratic Party.

Nearly two-thirds, 63%, said they feel closer to the Democrats than they have in the past, compared to 29% who feel closer to the Republicans. Forty-three percent of Latinos said the phrase “cares about people like you” better describes the Democratic Party, compared to 12% who said the phrase better described the GOP.

The survey, conducted in both Spanish and English earlier this month, reached 1,563 Latino American adults across the country. Of those, 787 were included in the subset deemed to be voters, defined as people who are registered to vote, voted in 2012, and said in general they always or nearly always vote.

Two-thirds of respondents, 67%, said that immigrants in the country illegally should eventually be allowed to become citizens. About 1 in 5 said that such immigrants should be barred from citizenship but be allowed to become permanent legal residents. Ten percent of respondents said immigrants in the country illegally should be identified and deported.

Half of those polled said they identified with the Democratic Party, compared with 15% who identified with the GOP. About 1 in 4 said they were politically independent.

Rep. Jared Polis of Colorado, a Democrat, said that Republicans in the House seemed unwilling to take the political risk required push for reform.

“The bigger political risk for Republicans would be not signing on,” Polis (D-Colo.) told reporters in a conference call with pro-reform advocates on Friday.

Rallies in favor of immigration reform are planned in more than 50 cities for Oct. 5. Activists want to put pressure on Republican lawmakers to take up immigration reform in the House and to call on the Obama administration to slow the rate of deportations, said Polis.

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brian.bennett@latimes.com

Twitter: @ByBrianBennett

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