Latinos campaign for President Obama last fall in Denver. (Doug Pensinger / Getty Images…)
WASHINGTON – A significant number of Latino voters could be convinced to vote for Republican candidates if the GOP changed its tack on immigration, according to an analysis of election results and polling data by a Seattle-based polling firm that extensively surveys Latino voters.
“Immigration is causing Republicans to leave votes on the table,” said Stanford University professor Gary Segura, one of the principals of the Latino Decisions polling firm, speaking with reporters by telephone Wednesday.
An estimated 31% of Latino registered voters would be more likely to vote for a Republican if the party took the lead on pushing for immigration reform, according to poll results.
That difference would be enough for a Republican presidential candidate to win 42% of the Latino vote and the presidency, Segura said.
“Republicans don’t need to win a majority of Latino votes to win; they just need to not get crushed,” he said.
Latino voters contributed the decisive push toward Obama’s 5.4% margin over Mitt Romney in the national popular vote, Segura said.
The number of Latino voters is projected to increase between now and the 2016 presidential election. Fifty thousand Latino citizens turn 18 and become eligible to vote every month, Segura said.
But survey results showed that if the Republican Party was seen taking action to overhaul immigration laws and create a pathway to legal status for the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants in the country, those votes may be up for grabs, he said.
"Latinos are the most movable electorate in the American polity,” Segura said. "There are no guarantees when it comes to the Latino vote; that should be kept in mind by both political parties."