Latino support surges for Obama, but will it hold?

Latino voters still strongly favor President Obama in November’s election, two new polls say, but their level of enthusiasm is unclear, a data point that will probably redouble campaign efforts to rally Latino voters.

The president’s announcement June 15 that he would allow undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. as children to stay in the country, provided they meet certain criteria, created a big bump in support among Latinos, according to a poll released Wednesday by Latino Decisions and the left-leaning group America’s Voice. The poll, which surveyed registered Latino voters in the battleground states of Colorado, Florida, Nevada and Virginia -- along with Arizona, which the president hopes to put in play -- found that Obama leads Romney by 63% to 27% in those states.

Enthusiasm also ticked up after last week’s announcement, according to that poll. In November 2011, 47% of Latino voters were “very enthusiastic” abut supporting the president, while now 60% are very enthusiastic about voting in November.


“The question will be whether that continues in the next weeks and months and into the election date,” said Matt Barreto, co-founder of Latino Decisions and a professor at the University of Washington.

A separate poll conducted by the Wall Street Journal/NBC News and Telemundo found that while Obama leads Romney 66% to 26% among Latino voters, enthusiasm is down.

That poll asked Latino voters how interested they are in November’s election on a scale of 1 to 10, and added up those who rated themselves as 8, 9, and 10 to measure how many Latinos would probably vote in the fall. Only two-thirds of Latinos surveyed said they were very interested in the contest, down from 68% last month. The same poll found that 80% of all adults consider themselves in the 8, 9 or 10 category and that 89% of tea party supporters are in that category. Still, 57% of Latinos said they were more enthusiastic about voting in this election than in previous ones.

That WSJ/NBC/Telemundo poll also found that Latinos support Obama on other issues besides immigration. Nearly three-quarters of Latinos said the president inherited the economic situation, as opposed to 60% of all respondents; 64% said they thought the government should do more to help, compared with 49% of all respondents.

On the enthusiasm divide, Barreto, of Latino Decisions, said that asking voters to rate their enthusiasm isn’t always the most successful polling method, and that wording matters in polls.

He also pointed out that his pollsters were in the field in the battleground states before and after Obama’s immigration announcement, giving them a unique perspective on how Latino opinions changed after June 15. The WSJ/NBC/Telemundo poll was conducted after the announcement, from June 20-24.

The Latino Decisions poll shows big bumps to Obama in battleground states such as Florida, where it found Obama leads Romney by a margin of 53% to 37% among registered Latino voters. That’s up from the 50% to 40% margin he held over Romney in Florida in January. Latinos favor Obama to Romney by the biggest margin in Arizona, 74% to 18%. While the state is still heavily Republican, the immigration law put in place by Gov. Jan Brewer -- and mostly overturned earlier this week by the Supreme Court -- has rallied Latinos against the Republican Party. While John McCain won the state by 9 points in 2008, the Obama campaign still hopes to capture it with the help of the Latino vote. The Democratic presidential nominee last won the state in 1996.

The outcome in the election in battleground states could very much depend on Latino voter turnout. In Nevada’s 2010 election, Harry Reid won a tough reelection fight thanks in part to Latino turnout. Latino Decisions also put together an interactive map showing who would win different states depending on the level of Latino turnout. The map shows that high Latino turnout could tip states such as Florida, Nevada and Virginia to Obama.