Poll: Latinos back Obama over Romney despite deportation policy

President Obama greets well-wishers after arriving at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam in Honolulu.
(Kent Nishimura / Pool/Getty Images)

Latinos by a 2-to-1 margin disapprove of how President Obama is handing deportations of illegal residents, but by an even larger margin, Latino voters favor him over Mitt Romney, according to a new survey by the Pew Hispanic Center.

The Obama administration has presided over a record number of deportations of illegal residents, a policy that has drawn extensive criticism from Latino leaders. By 59%-27%, Latinos – citizens and noncitizens – say they disapprove of how the administration is handling the issue.

Obama’s overall approval rating among Latinos in the survey was 49% -- a figure consistent with findings of other recent surveys and a sharp decline from his standing earlier in his administration.

So far, however, that disapproval does not appear to have spilled over to how Latinos expect to vote. Among the registered voters in the survey, Obama led Romney in a hypothetical matchup by 68%-23% -- about the same margin by which Obama defeated John McCain among Latino voters in 2008, according to exit polls.


Republicans have been hoping that disapproval of Obama’s policies would erode support for the president among Latinos, whose backing he cannot afford to lose.

But some Republican strategists have worried that their hope for converting Latino voters would be blocked by the strong anti-illegal-immigrant positions that Romney and other GOP hopefuls have taken during the primary campaign.

The poll indicates those fears are well grounded. Asked which of the two parties has more concern for them, only 12% of Latinos surveyed cited the GOP, while 45% said Democrats.

The poll also indicated that many Latinos do not know that deportations have risen under Obama’s watch. Among native-born Latinos – the group most likely to be registered to vote – only 25% said they thought deportations were higher under Obama than under George W. Bush, while 44% said the records of the two were about the same.

Illegal residents were much more likely to be aware that deportations have risen. They, of course, can’t vote.