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Latino voters' enthusiasm rises, but still lags behind 2008

July 25, 2012|By David Lauter
  • Brian Conklin, right, a regional director for President Obama's reelection campaign, briefs volunteers about registering new voters before sending them out to canvass a heavily Latino neighborhood in Phoenix.
Brian Conklin, right, a regional director for President Obama's… (Ross D. Franklin / Associated…)

Latino voters’ interest in the election has begun to rise, but still lags behind the levels of four years ago, according to a new survey which offers mixed news for President Obama’s reelection campaign.

Latinos, who are expected to be a critical vote in the November election, have much more favorable views of Obama than of Republican challenger Mitt Romney. By large majorities, they say they identify with Obama’s background and values, according to the latest NBC/Telemundo-Wall Street Journal poll. Asked which candidate they would vote for if the election were held now, Latinos sided with Obama 67% to 23%.

But by comparison with the rest of the electorate, their interest in the election — an indicator of whether a person is likely to vote — is significantly lower. Asked to rate their interest on a 10-point scale, 49% of Latino voters put themselves in the top category. That’s up six points from last month, but still considerably below the 59% who reported that level of interest four years ago. It’s also significantly lower than the 62% of the overall electorate who put themselves in that category in the last NBC-Journal poll.

A quarter of the Latinos surveyed said they did not vote in 2008, and almost half said they did not vote in the 2010 midterm election. For the overall electorate, 12% said they did not vote in 2008 and about one-third said they did not vote in 2010.

The numbers underscore the main challenge for the Obama campaign regarding Latino voters — motivating turnout. To win key swing states, particularly Colorado and Nevada, Obama needs Latinos to vote in large numbers as they did four years ago.

The Romney campaign faces a far more basic challenge: Large numbers of Latino voters don’t like him and don’t identify with his background and values.

Only 7% of Latinos surveyed said they had “very positive” feelings toward Romney, and overall 22% gave him a favorable rating compared with 42% who said their feeling toward him was unfavorable. By contrast, Obama’s favorability was 64% to 21% unfavorable, with 41% of Latinos saying they felt “very positive” feelings toward him. Romney shares his lack of popularity among Latinos with his party. Obama, by contrast, is somewhat more popular than the Democrats.

Asked if they identified with the candidate’s “background and set of values,” Latinos said yes about Obama by a 2-1 margin. But by an equally large margin, they said no about Romney.

The poll, an oversample of 300 Latino registered voters, has a margin of error of plus or minus 5.7 percentage points. The overall NBC/Wall Street Journal poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 points.

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David.Lauter@latimes.com

Twitter @DavidLauter

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