Polling shows little gain for GOP from immigration reform

But there is little evidence that past support for reform has aided GOP candidates.

In 1988, President George H.W. Bush won only 30 percent of the Latino vote in 1988 after prominently pushing the 1986 reform bill.

His son, President George W. Bush, won 40 percent of the Latino vote in 2004, during a housing bubble that provided provided wages to many immigrant Latino construction workers, and during a race against a wealthy candidate from Massachusetts.

Bush did not push an immigration bill until 2006, when he worked with Arizona Sen. John McCain on a rewrite that failed because of GOP and Democratic opposition. McCain’s reward in 2008 was 31 percent of the Latino vote.

The Bush-McCain push in 2006 did not even have any  beneficial impact in the 2006 midterm elections for the GOP, according to a peer-reviewed study by George Hawley, a lecturer at the University of Houston.

“Latinos living in House districts represented by pro-immigration Republican incumbents were no more likely to support that incumbent than Latinos living in House districts represented by Republican incumbents with pro-enforcement records,” he concluded in his study of the Latino vote in the 2006 elections.

The study was published in “Social Science Quarterly.”

“Supporting more generous immigration policies does not appear to be a way for Republicans to increase their share of the Latino vote,” Hawley wrote.

However, the Pew survey highlighted one favorable trend for the GOP — the gradual integration of Latinos into mainstream culture pulls them toward the political center.

“Support for a larger government is greatest among immigrant Latinos,” the report said. But it falls from 81 percent of new immigrants to 72 percent among the second generation and 58 percent among the third generation, it said.

But new arrivals tend to increase the Latino and immigrant share of the vote, exacerbating the GOP disadvantage. For example, even if the GOP gets 4 million votes from 10 million new arrivals, the Democratic Party would get 6 million votes.

Those two trends give the GOP an incentive to promote integration by reducing the number of new arrivals.

That is the policy pushed by some GOP politicians and some immigration-reform groups, such as the Center for Immigration Studies.