Friday, February 1, 2013

Immigration Reform: Not a gamechanger

Since the “Gang of Eight” revealed their plan for immigration reform, news sources and outlets have beaten us over the head with the idea that immigration reform is what is going to lead the Republican party back to Latino voters and win more elections.  This idea is part of an analysis that usually sets out to prove what you want in the beginning.  This type of talk leads us to believe such things that a woman running for office will do better than a male in the female vote regardless of policies.  So, let’s look at the numbers to see if these type of statements are accurate or if they are just lazy. 

The number that has been used to death with these news sources has been that Barack Obama won over 70% of the Latino vote (71% to be exact) while Mitt Romney only won 27%.  You see this discrepancy and you think, what caused that or you think ACORN stole the election.  That’s a large gap, especially when you compare it to George W. Bush.  George W. Bush did surprisingly well with Latino voters, receiving 40% of the Latino vote in 2004.  That’s the number people keep coming back to.  But, in 2000 Bush received 35% of the vote.  Still, more impressive than Romney but not by as much as 2004.  Here’s the real killer, though.  In 2008, Obama received 67% of the Latino vote.  His 4% increase from 2008 to 2012 among Latino demographics is a bit surprising, considering how he did among other demographics comparing 2008 to 2012. This does not make it overwhelmingly so.  The issues between Latino voters and the Republican party happened between 2004 and 2008 not 2008 and 2012.  This is a key distinction that I want people to know.  From the 2004 election to the 2008 election there was a 9% decrease from the Republican party with the Latino voters.  From 2008 to 2012, there was a 4% decrease.  The 71% that Barack Obama received in 2012 is not that out of line with what the Democratic party has been able to do since 1980. 

The Democratic advantage with the Latino votes might also have to do with the fact that Democrats have performed a couple of points better in exit polls than they do in the actual election, at least since 1988.  
We’re going to rely on survey data to help explain why Barack Obama got a 4% bump from 2008 to 2012.  ImpreMedia and Latino Decisions did a poll focusing on Latinos who had cast their early votes and those who had said that they are certain that they would vote.  They were hoping to find some information on Latino voters.  So why do Latino voters vote?  39% of them said that they wanted to help the Democrats.  15% said that they wanted to support the Republicans.  36% of Latino voters said that they wanted to help Latinos.  What was the top issue for Latinos?  Well, according to ImpreMedia and Latino Decisions, 53% of Latino voters listed the economy and job creation as their top priority.  35% said that immigration reform was their top issue.  We see this, again, in the national exit polls.  According to the national exit polls, 60% listed the economy as the top issue (of the four listed).  Health care was second at 18%.  The federal budget deficit (11%) and foreign policy (6%) were the other choices. 
ImpreMedia is quick to point out that immigration reform is what turned the election, at least for Latino voters to Obama.  They point out that nearly 60% (57% to be exact) of Latino voters were less enthusiastic about Romney because of his immigration policy.  27% stated that there was no impact.  58% of Latino voters felt more enthusiastic about Obama because of his deferred action policy.  Because of a combination of the immigration policy Romney was espousing and his overall policy goals, 56% of Latino voters did not feel that Romney cared much for the Latino community.  18% of Latino voters actually thought Romney was hostile towards the Latino community.  66% of Latino voters thought that Obama cared about the Latino community.  Certainly, there is some support for the idea that immigration reform is a big issue to Latino voters.  Look at Arizona.  The controversial SB1070 led many Latino voters to not like the Republican party as much and throw some support behind a national politician who was constantly saying it was derisive, Barack Obama.  The support for Barack Obama increased by 18 points from 2008 to 2012.  But for every Arizona, there’s a Nevada, where the Hispanic vote for Obama decreased by 6 points from 2008 to 2012.  According to the national exit poll, 77% of Latino voters said unauthorized immigrants working in America should be offered a chance at legal status with 18% saying that they should be deported.  This is somewhat in line with what we see nationally, as 65% of all voters said they should have a chance at legal status with 28% saying they should be deported.  Immigration reform is popular among Latinos, certainly, but it appeals to all voters.  The problem with the Republican party is that there is not a guarantee that offering this immigration reform will please their base and Latino voters without changing other policies.  This would further infuriate their base.
The top issue either way you look at it from Latino voters is the economy.  What do they favor in the economy?  Well, while it’s not all a part of the economy, some of it is.  More than a third of Latino voters favor higher taxes on the wealthy.  The deficit of the country, well, 42% of Latino voters believe that this should be addressed by spending cuts AND tax increases compared to 12% of Latino voters who believe that it should only be spending cuts.  Obamacare was brought up a lot in the presidential election and healthcare is what we spend so much of our money on.  About 25% of Latino voters think that Obamacare should be repealed while 61% think that Obamacare should stand as law.  Going further, 66% of Latino voters believe that the government should ensure that all people have access to health insurance, whereas 25% of Latino voters believe that each person should provide their own health insurance.  These are pretty liberal ideas.  While it’s not sexy for Republicans to admit as much, but maybe their views just don’t resonate with the Latino voters.  It’s much easier to think that a simple solution as providing immigration reform will solve the troubles with Latino voters but it’s important to look at all of the factors. 
It’s certainly possible, if not probable, that the cause and effect of immigration reform impacted Latino votes more than I think they did.  It’s conceivable that immigration reform is what attracted many of the voters to adopt some of Barack Obama’s policies.  It’s just as conceivable that Barack Obama’s economic and social policies influenced whether or not they supported his immigration reforms, too.  Immigration reform is certainly an important issue among Latino voters.  But introducing immigration reform is not likely to cause a large impact on elections in the future for the Republican party.  There are other issues where they do not appeal to the Latino voters.  Among them, is that some of Republican supporters endorsed SB1070, a controversial piece of legislation, that still angers Latino voters, as we saw in Arizona.  There are more examples I could throw out there, but I’ll stop there.  There is a disconnect between Latino voters and the Republican party.  While one side sees it as an issue of offering immigration reform, it does not seem that easy.  I would hesitate to quantify the impact of immigration reform on elections until we could isolate immigration reform away from other policies.  But, certainly the Republican party knows this, too.  I would have to be forced to conclude, like I did originally with Barack Obama and gay marriage, that the Republican party (at least a few of them) are serious about immigration reform.

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