Latino advocates and some Republican leaders say the GOP can boost its Hispanic support at the polls by backing a large-scale immigration bill.
But there is little or no evidence to back the claim — and much historical and analytical data showing that the vast majority of Latinos support the Democratic Party because they prefer its big-government policies to the GOP’s small-government policies.
“The Republican Party is losing the support of our Hispanic citizens, and we realize there are many issues in which we think we are in agreement with our Hispanic citizens,” claimed Sen. John McCain, who won just 31 percent of the Latino vote after championing a conditional amnesty in 2006.
Support for Latino immigration “is a preeminent issue for those citizens,” said McCain, who has allied with Democrats to push through an immigration rewrite this year.
His claim is being echoed by groups that favor some form of path to citizenship for illegal immigrants and a continued inflow of immigrant workers.
A Jan. 23 briefing by the polling firm Latino Decisions said 31 percent of Hispanics would be “more likely to vote Republican” if the GOP took the lead role in passing a “comprehensive reform with a path to citizenship.”
But the company’s data also showed that 11 percent of Latinos were less likely to vote GOP if it pushed such a bill, and 48 percent of Latinos said it would have no effect. Based on that poll, the survey firm speculated the GOP could get up to 42 percent of the Latino vote in a future election.
However, other surveys shows that Latino voters are far more favorable to big government that GOP voters.
An April 2012 survey by the Pew Research Hispanic Center showed that 75 percent of Latinos want a “bigger government providing more services … while 19 percent say they would rather have a smaller government with fewer services.”
Even the Latino Decision report that predicted a GOP gain among Latinos, counsels Republicans to downplay opposition to Obamacare and to minimize support for upper-income tax cuts.
To win Latinos, the GOP should support amnesty for children of undocumented immigrants, fund Spanish-language education and praise Latino immigrants by declaring that immigrants “enrich our soul” and that “diversity becomes a strength,” said the company’s report.
But company co-founder Gary Segura punted when The Daily Caller asked him for polling evidence that a substantial percent of Latinos would switch to the free-market oriented GOP.
“40 percent of Latino voters voted for the GOP [in 2004] … so we know that the inter-election swing is POTENTIALLY large,” insisted Segura, who also works as a Chicano/a studies professor at Stanford University.
The most optimistic GOP-affiliated group is the Hispanic Leadership Network, which suggests that GOP politicians could get up to 40 percent of the Hispanic vote for supporting an immigration bill.
“Republicans should not expect to win a majority of the Hispanic vote nationally any time in the foreseeable future [but] they can reasonably win more than 40 percent of Hispanic voters in many states,” said a joint statement by HLN and Resurgent Republic. Supporting immigration reform would draw support from up to 50 percent of Latinos in Florida and 30 percent in Colorado, said the memo.
HLN is a business-backed groups whose leadership included many allies of former President George W. Bush, and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.
Overall, a major immigration overhaul would help the GOP by reducing the controversy, said Mario H. Lopez, president of the Hispanic Leadership Fund, which shares some leadership with the HLN.
“There would be an advantage to having immigration reform off the table of the next election, and would make sure no candidate ever mentions ‘self-deportation’ ever again,” he said.
In the long run, the GOP must step up its outreach and change some policies to win Hispanic voters, he added. “It is a mistake for any Republican to look at this as a panacea. … That would be a dreadful mistake.”