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Immigration a concern, but not most pressing issue, for Latinos

October 11, 2012|By Hector Becerra
  • Members of the Florida Immigrant Coalition prepare to go door to door looking to sign up voters during a voter registration drive in Pompano Beach, Fla.
Members of the Florida Immigrant Coalition prepare to go door to door looking… (Joe Raedle / Getty Images )

Issues related to illegal immigration matter to many Latinos, but they are not their most pressing concern, according to a new survey of the Pew Hispanic Center.

In the study, which also found Latinos more optimistic about the direction of the country than other groups, Latinos rated education, jobs and the economy and healthcare as priorities. That finding is consistent with previous surveys. About a third of Latino registered voters said immigration is “extremely important to them personally,” about the same as the federal budget deficit and taxes, according to the study.

Despite not rating illegal immigration as their top issue, an overwhelming percentage of Latinos polled, 89%, said they approved of President Obama’s recently announced policy allowing some young immigrants who were brought to the U.S. illegally as children to remain in the country and apply for work permits. The study also found Latinos backing Obama 3 to 1 over Mitt Romney but less certain than other groups about going to the polls in November.

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Though most Latinos do not have a direct stake in immigration reform, the issue is still a tone-setter for many, and actions or words that are perceived as unduly harsh toward immigrants without papers often resonate with Latinos.

According to the survey, the Democratic Party’s reputation among Latino registered voters has gotten a boost since, with 61% saying it’s that party that shows more concern toward them. In 2011, 45% held that view. By contrast, only 10% of Latino registered voters surveyed said the Republican Party “has more concern for Latinos,” slightly less than said the same last year.

Mark Hugo Lopez, associate director of Pew Hispanic and the report’s lead author, said the percentage of registered Latinos saying Democrats show more concern about them is the highest Pew Hispanic has found in the last 10 years. The number of Latinos expressive that view about Democrats has increased over the last two years, probably in large part because Obama has taken some steps to blunt criticism over his failure to pass comprehensive immigration reform and the record number of deportations of illegal immigrants during his administration, said Lopez.

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Registered Latinos’ strong support for Obama was mirrored in an increasingly positive outlook about their personal finances. Of those surveyed, 42% said their personal finances were in “excellent” or “good” shape, compared to 31% who said that last year. But that’s still lower than the 48% in the general public who rate their finances as excellent or good. The economic recession’s disproportional impact on Latinos has been something the Romney campaign has used against Obama in the run-up to the election.

Despite this, Latino registered voters have a sunnier attitude about the state of the nation compared to the general public, according to Pew Hispanic. While only 28% of all registered voters said they were “satisfied with the direction of the nation,” 45% of Latinos expressed such optimism.

Lopez said the survey found a greater “sense of optimism about the direction of the country” among Latinos than among other groups.

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hector.becerra@latimes.com

Twitter: @LaTimesHekutor

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