WASHINGTON — Latino voters are strongly backing Sen. John F. Kerry over President Bush, who a majority say deliberately misled the public into war in Iraq, according to data released Thursday by the Pew Hispanic Center and the Kaiser Family Foundation.
A poll by the groups shows the Massachusetts Democrat leading Bush by a ratio of nearly 2 to 1 among Latino voters -- a group whose numbers have grown 20% since 2000 but whose breakdown by party has stayed virtually the same since the last presidential election.
Of the 788 registered Latinos questioned in the poll, 59% said they supported Kerry, 31% said Bush and 3% picked independent candidate Ralph Nader.
In a larger survey of 1,166 registered Latinos, 54% said the president deliberately misled Americans while making the case for war in Iraq. And when asked about Bush's handling of the war, a majority were displeased, with 41% saying they strongly disapproved, nearly twice as many as those who strongly approved.
The survey, which examined Latino involvement in the political process, indicates that Latinos are no more likely to identify themselves as Republicans than they were four years ago, suggesting that aggressive overtures by Bush and the GOP have yet to reap clear benefits.
When asked their party affiliation, 45% of registered Latinos said they were Democrats and 20% said they were Republicans, numbers little different from those reported during the last race.
"The partisan alignment among Latino voters has not changed at all since 1999, which is a little surprising given how much effort the president and the Republican Party have put into trying to develop a larger Hispanic constituency," said Roberto Suro, director of the Pew Hispanic Center, a nonprofit research group that tracks the views of the country's Latino population.
But Sharon Castillo, a Bush campaign spokeswoman, said Thursday night that the president had made huge inroads in the last election, earning an estimated 35% of the Latino vote. By contrast, she said, the Republican candidate in 1996, Sen. Bob Dole of Kansas, got only 21% of the Latino vote.
In the 2000 race, Democrat Al Gore won an estimated 62% of the Latino vote.
The larger survey examined a sweeping range of issues, including healthcare, the war on terrorism, immigration and education, which topped Latinos' list of priorities this election, as has historically been the case.
The responses from Latinos were more in line with the traditional views of the Democratic Party. For instance, a majority said the government should provide health insurance for those without it. Asked about Bush's 2001 tax cuts, 21% said they were bad for the country and 33% said they had not made much of a difference.
The explosion in the number of Latinos in this country -- the figure soared more than 50% in the last decade, to nearly 40 million -- has been well publicized, and politicking from both campaigns reflects that growth. Kerry and Bush have spent about $1 million each on Spanish-language advertising, according to the two campaigns.