Obama’s immigration move wins support in battleground states


WASHINGTON — President Obama’s decision to extend administrative relief to an estimated 800,000 young illegal immigrants has won favor with Latino voters in key battleground states, according to a new poll.

The Latino Decisions survey found that Obama’s move had wiped out an earlier “enthusiasm deficit” among Hispanic voters over the administration’s deportation policies. By contrast, the poll found that Latino voters were sharply opposed to Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s call for illegal immigrants to “self-deport.”

Voters in five states with significant portions of Latino voters — Florida, Colorado, Nevada, Virginia and Arizona — were asked about Obama’s new policy of halting deportations and offering temporary work permits to some illegal immigrants who came to the U.S. before they were 16, lived here for at least five years and have clean records.

Forty-nine percent of the Latino voters surveyed said Obama’s move made them more enthusiastic about the president, compared with 14% who were less enthusiastic. Thirty-four percent said it would have no effect on their attitude toward Obama.

That “enthusiasm advantage” of 35 percentage points compares with a 19-point deficit in a survey earlier this year, when Latino voters were asked about the high level of deportations of immigrants under the Obama administration.

The June 15 announcement of the new action on immigration “appears to have clearly erased Obama’s enthusiasm deficit among Latinos,” said Matt Barreto, a University of Washington political scientist and one of the founders of Latino Decisions. The survey firm conducted the new poll in conjunction with America’s Voice, a liberal advocacy group.

Romney criticized Obama over the weekend for taking an end run around Congress in authorizing the new policy. But the GOP contender, who has acknowledged the need for Republicans to expand their support among Latino voters, stopped short of opposing the new policy.

Both Obama and Romney are scheduled to speak this week at the annual meeting of a major Hispanic organization, the National Assn. of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials.

Romney’s hard-line rhetoric on immigration has helped give Obama an advantage among Latino voters, national polls have shown.

In the new poll, voters were asked about Romney’s call for illegal immigrants to return voluntarily to their former countries and his statements about making Arizona’s immigration laws a model for the nation.

Only 10% of Latinos said Romney’s positions made them more enthusiastic about him, while 59% made them less enthusiastic, an “enthusiasm deficit” of negative 49 points.

The survey was conducted June 12-16 and had a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5%.

During the first three days of the survey, respondents were asked whether their enthusiasm for Obama would change if the president was to announce a new policy to halt deportations. The wording of the question was changed after Friday’s announcement.

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