At the same time, Republicans face real challenges in overcoming the affinities a majority of Hispanic voters have for Democratic policies and leaders. In our survey, 51 percent self-identify as Democrats. A majority also say their top concern in the nation is the economy and job creation, and when asked which political party is better able to handle that concern, these voters prefer Democrats over Republicans 2-to-1.
Moreover, 65 percent of Hispanic voters hold the Bush administration more responsible for the current state of the economy, and on immigration reform, Hispanic voters overwhelmingly support comprehensive plans.
Most timely, as the health care debate reaches its peak, a majority of Hispanic voters (58 percent) say they favor the proposals being debated in Congress. However, both Republicans and Democrats would be extremely near-sighted to assume that the Democratic preference cannot be swayed by developing political undercurrents.
Hispanic voters do not believe that President Obama shares their top priority. A strong plurality (46 percent) say their top priority is lowering the cost of health care, but a majority (58 percent) believe that President Obama’s top priority is increasing coverage. So while there is support for the proposals in Congress, nearly 6 in 10 Hispanic voters say President Obama’s top priority for the legislation is not the same as their own, a noteworthy disconnect after a year-long debate.
Democrat leaders who seek to silence pro-life Democrats who support the Stupak amendment risk alienating the 55 percent of Hispanic voters who are pro-life. Indeed, 48 percent of Hispanic voters hold this position “strongly.”
Hispanic voters are at odds with two of President Obama’s central tenets on national security: closing the facility at Guantanamo Bay, and providing civilian trials to suspected terrorists. By 62-to-32 percent, these voters believe “holding prisoners at Guantanamo Bay helps protect America by keeping terrorists in custody who would kill Americans overseas.” By 54-to-39 percent, Hispanic voters believe putting suspected 9/11 terrorists on trial in New York City instead of a military court is the wrong policy because it “gives terrorists captured on the battlefield the same rights as American citizens.”
Disenchantment with many of the policies of President Obama and the Democratic Congress has caused Hispanic voters to be more open to persuasion from Republicans. Embracing commonality with Hispanic voters on fiscal and national security issues could reshape the long-term political narrative in a significant way.
Ed Goeas, President and CEO of The Tarrance Group, conducted the survey and serves on Resurgent Republic’s National Survey Research Advisory Board. Leslie Sanchez is author of Los Republicanos: Why Hispanics and Republicans Need Each Other and serves as a Board Member of Resurgent Republic.