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Latinos are in a gloomy mood

Times Staff Writer

Latinos in the U.S. are increasingly pessimistic about their situation and disapprove of aggressive immigration enforcement policies of the Bush administration -- findings that could have implications for the presidential election -- a new survey shows.

Nearly 10% of Latinos said they had been stopped by police or other authorities and asked about their immigration status in the last year, including 8% of Latinos born in the U.S.

Nearly 15% said it had been hard to find or keep a job because they were Latino, and 10% said the same thing about finding or keeping housing. And 57% of Latinos worry that they or a friend or family member will be deported, up from 53% last year.

Half of those surveyed by the Pew Hispanic Center said the situation for Latinos in the U.S. was worse now than a year ago. In last year’s survey, a third took that view.

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“There is a significant deterioration in the mood of Hispanics,” said Susan Minushkin, deputy director of the center, a nonpartisan research group.

Unhappiness among Latinos could have consequences for the presidential election, particularly for Republican John McCain, who is striving in ads and speeches for an immigrant-friendly image.

The Pew survey found that 66% of Latino registered voters backed Barack Obama and 23% supported McCain, results reported earlier. Those levels mark a swing back to traditional levels of Latino support for Democratic presidential candidates after a groundswell of support for President Bush.

Bush drew 40% of Latino voters in 2004, an unprecedented showing for a Republican candidate.

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Latinos comprise 8% of U.S. voters, but a larger proportion in some key swing states, said Mark Hugo Lopez, associate director of the Pew Hispanic Center: 35% in New Mexico, 14% in Florida and about 12% of voters in Nevada and Colorado.

Pew researchers found that the issue of immigration was playing a more important role for Latinos in this presidential election year than in 2004. Thirty-four percent of Latinos said the issue was extremely important, up from 28% in 2004.

Almost half of Latinos said the Democratic Party had more concern for immigrants, whereas 7% said that of the Republican Party.

When Pew researchers asked Latino registered voters which candidate was better for immigrants, 50% chose Obama, 12% McCain.

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McCain wrote a 2006 bill with Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) that would have given most illegal immigrants a path to citizenship.

McCain distanced himself from that view in 2007, when he began campaigning for president. He has since said he would not vote for the bill.

The Pew survey found widespread disapproval among U.S.- and foreign-born Latinos for immigration enforcement methods such as workplace raids and criminal prosecution of illegal immigrants.

One significant difference between U.S.-born and foreign-born Latinos came on the question of electronically verifying workers’ legal status. Overall, 53% disapproved. But 63% of foreign-born Latinos disapproved of the policy, whereas 38% of U.S.-born Latinos were against it.

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The telephone survey, conducted in English and Spanish in June and July with 2,015 Latinos age 18 and older, did not ask foreign-born Latinos about their legal status. It had a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 2.8 percentage points for all Latinos and a greater margin for subsets.

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nicole.gaouette@latimes.com


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