Swing-State Latinos Give Obama Huge Lead

 
on October 05 2012 2:23 PM
  • Obama
    President Obama will be the first sitting U.S. president to take advantage of early voting. Reuters
  • Barack Obama
    The president congratulates two campaign workers on their engagement. Reuters
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President Obama continues to enjoy a commanding lead among Latino voters in Florida and Nevada, both swing states with large Hispanic populations.

The Latino electorate could play a decisive role in this election, particularly in states -- like Florida and Nevada -- with surging Hispanic populations. According to Census data, Florida's Latino population grew by more than 1.5 million between 2000 and 2010, while Nevada's nearly doubled.

A new Latino Decisions poll of Nevada gives the president a 78-17 lead over Mitt Romney, significantly widening the 69-20 advantage Obama registered in the poll's August installment. More than two-thirds of Nevada Hispanics said they were "very enthusiastic" about voting, with a quarter saying they were "somewhat enthusiastic."

Mitt Romney has made his case to Hispanic voters by noting that they have suffered higher than average levels of unemployment and foreclosure under the Obama administration, an argument with some traction in Nevada, a state with soaring levels of foreclosures and an unemployment rate hovering around 12 percent.

But Obama's substantial lead suggests the limits of Romney's economy-based appeal, even as polls suggest that for Latino voters -- as with the rest of the country -- jobs and the economy are the paramount concerns.

It was a similar story in Florida, where Latino Decisions found Hispanics backing Obama over Romney by a 61-31 margin. That lead came despite the fact that Florida's Hispanic population has large shares of Cuban and Puerto Rican voters, who are not as affected by immigration issues.

The two polls come after a CNN/ORC analysis released earlier in the week gave Obama a 70-26 edge over Romney among Latino voters. Three-quarters of respondents to that poll said they were extremely, somewhat or very enthusiastic, and Obama received a glowing 68 percent approval rating.

Obama's lead among Latinos appears insurmountable at this point, but the president's challenge will be getting Latinos to the polls in numbers that translate his polling advantage into votes. For that reason, the enthusiasm metric is a particularly telling indicator.

A cascade of new state laws tightening voting eligibility requirements could also complicate things. A study by the organization Advancement Project recently projected that the new voting measures could keep as many as 10 million Hispanics from voting.

While a judge likely ensured this week that Pennsylvania's controversial ID law will not be in effect for the elections, many states have passed laws that curtail early voting, require photo identification and otherwise affect access to the polls. Other states, like Florida, have sought to purge ineligible voters from their rolls.

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