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Latino voters could decide 2024 election. What issues matter to them?

Updated June 27, 2024 - 7:05 pm

While inflation and cost of living remain the top issue among registered Latino voters in Nevada, a sample of them polled in May chose immigration and border policy as their leading concern outside their economic priorities, according to findings released Tuesday.

The poll, which oversampled registered Latino voters in the swing states of Nevada, Arizona and Pennsylvania, was commissioned by UnidosUS.

“The top priorities for Latino voters continue to be pocketbook issues,” said Clarissa Martinez De Castro, vice president of the Latino Vote Initiative with the national nonpartisan civil rights and advocacy organization. “That said, we also are seeing the topic of immigration.”

She added: “Immigration has traditionally packed a powerful punch in shaping Latino voter sentiment.”

The survey was conducted by pollsters with Lake Research Partners and The Terrance Group in mid May.

Pollsters interviewed registered voters in English and Spanish through telephone and the internet. The national poll had a margin of error of 3.5 percent, with a larger margin of error for the smaller groups.

The state-specific polls were part of a nationwide survey in which voters were asked about their top concern and asked them to specifically expand on their thoughts about immigration-related policy.

“Inflation and cost of living” came in first with 24 percent, followed by “jobs and the economy” with 14 percent.

About 12 percent chose “immigration and the border.”

Violence and gun violence garnered 6 percent of the choice nationally, while other issues such as abortion and the war in Gaza each received 3 percent.

Eleven percent of Nevada Latinos said high rents and lack of affordable housing was their top priority.

Immigration solutions

Responses varied between the three swing states where Latino voters were polled, and what political party those surveyed supported.

Thoughts on immigration policy among Republican Latinos aligned with presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, said Brian Nienaber, vice president of Terrance Group.

“This survey finds that Hispanic GOP voters hold views similar to those of their GOP counterparts of other races on the issue of immigration, including a strong interest in Congressional action on immigration,” he said, “as well as support for more restrictive immigration policies like increased border security and higher levels of deportation.”

And while Latino Democrats also support funding to secure the border and combating drug and human smugglers, they prefer a path to citizenship for long-term undocumented immigrants and Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals recipients, who were illegally brought to the U.S. as children, said David Mermin with Lake Research Partners.

“And they will be paying close attention to these issues when they vote in November,” he said.

Nevada Latino voters are also sympathetic to the idea of fast-tracking and expanding legal solutions for new arrivals, according to the poll.

“Latino voters know better than a lot of other voters in the U.S. how difficult it is to actually immigrate and go through legal channels to get through family and employment-based visas,” Mermin said.

Measures such as expanding the border wall and deportations polled low among Latinos surveyed, according to the pollsters.

Asked which party and presidential candidate is “better on immigration,” Democrats had a 15 percentage point edge over Republicans among Nevada Latinos, and President Joe Biden had a 19 percentage point advantage over Trump.

But more striking was that nearly a third of Nevada Latinos answered that they preferred neither party or candidate, or didn’t know their choice, the pollsters said.

The issue could determine how swing voters nationally cast their ballots, according to the poll.

“Latino swing voters nationwide overwhelmingly say that candidates’ positions on immigration will impact their votes for President and Congress, the pollsters wrote. “Swing voters are clearly motivated by the issue of immigration and are willing to decide their vote on it.”

The pollsters said political campaigns would be smart to address the issue and provide feasible proposals.

“They’re not seeing yet the issue fully addressed in the way they want to see it addressed,” Mermin said.

Added Nienaber: “If you can kind of the be the first one out there and roll out a plan that seems feasible, I think there’s a lot of opportunity with the Hispanic electorate for you to build up some goodwill and potentially turn that into electoral support.”

Contact Ricardo Torres-Cortez at rtorres@reviewjournal.com.

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