Latino supporters hold up signs as they attend a campaign rally for President… (Doug Pensinger / Getty Images )
The good news for President Obama: Latino registered voters prefer him over Mitt Romney by more than a 3-to-1 ratio, and are increasingly satisfied with the nation’s direction and their personal finances.
The bad news: They’re thinking less about the election and are less certain than registered voters in general about whether they are actually going to cast ballots in the presidential election.
That’s not what you want to hear -- if you’re an Obama backer -- from a group that historically hasn’t met its growing potential when it comes to voter turnout.
The paradoxical conclusion is the result of a survey of 1,765 voters across the country by the Pew Hispanic Center. The study found that Obama is polling even better among Latinos than he did in 2008, when he trounced Republican Sen. John McCain 69% to 31% among Latinos. But while 89% of all registered voters say they are certain they are going to vote on Nov. 6, only 77% of registered Latinos say they are sure they’re going to vote.
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Moreover, while 70% of registered voters surveyed said they had thought “quite a lot” about the upcoming election, only 61% of Latinos said the same.
Nevertheless, the percentage of Latino voters who say they are certain they are going to vote is significantly higher than the 51% who responded that way in 2010, said Mark Hugo Lopez, associate director at the Pew Hispanic Center and the report’s lead author.
“Obama holds a 72%-22% lead over Romney among Hispanic registered voters who say they are ‘absolutely certain they will vote’ this year,” the survey found. “Among Hispanic registered voters who say they may vote, Obama’s lead over Romney is smaller -- 66% to 20%.”
Fully two-thirds of Latinos polled said they “believe the Latino vote will have a ‘major impact’ on determining who wins this year’s election.” Foreign-born Latinos were more likely to hold that view than U.S.-born Latinos.
Spanish-dominant Latinos feel stronger about Obama than bilingual Latinos, but only slightly. However, English-dominant Latinos are less supportive of the president by nearly 20 percentage points than Spanish-dominant ones — though they still greatly favor Obama over Romney.
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In perhaps a bit of a surprise, the surveyed showed Latinos supporting laws requiring voters to show photo identification in order to cast a ballot. Such laws, critics say, can discourage Latinos and African Americans from voting.
A strong majority of Latinos surveyed, 71%, supported photo ID laws. That’s only slightly lower than the 77% for the general public, according to Pew Hispanic.
A record number 24 million Latinos are eligible to vote next month, bolstering claims about their potential importance in the presidential election. But their turnout historically lags far behind other groups, including blacks and whites. According to Pew, even the record number of Latinos now eligible to vote should be higher. A high turnout among Latinos in November would benefit Obama, especially in an otherwise close race, while a low turnout would help Romney, who despite an effort to narrow the gap has had little success with Latinos.