Obama, Romney and the Hispanic Vote

Hispanic voters comprise a large percentage of the voting public and for that reason many presidential hopefuls work to court this part of the voting rolls. According to recent polls, however, determining how to appeal to this segment of voters may not be cut and dried. In polls, Hispanic voters give a range of reasons for supporting either Mitt Romney or Barack Obama in this year’s election. Some are concerned about immigration issues while others are voting based on economic policies or other issues.

Not only are Hispanic voters are significant portion of today’s voting public, but it is estimated that by the year 2050 they will comprise 30% of the US population. Polls indicate that while Hispanic voters have traditionally had Democratic leanings, they are also rapidly entering the ranks of independent voters. The latest polls suggest that 46% of Hispanic voters today have no party label. Six years ago, only 31% of Hispanic voters avoided a party label. Currently, Democrats still have an advantage among these voters, with 65% of polled Hispanic voters supporting Obama and only 25% supporting Romney.

President Obama’s campaign is careful to address the unique concerns of different groups of Hispanic voters, from Florida Cuban-Americans to traditionally Democratic Puerto Ricans to other groups. Obama’s support of the DREAM Act, his stated opposition to Arizona’s immigration laws, and his recent executive order reducing the threat of deportation for young undocumented immigrants may also go a long way towards earning him support among those voters whose families were not born in the US.

Romney initially alienated Hispanic voters by speaking out against the DREAM Act and by adopting a tough stance towards undocumented immigration. Since then, he has addressed Hispanic voters directly and has promised to revisit the issue of undocumented immigration in a fair manner. What may sway voters to the Republican side is economics. Rather than focusing on immigration, Romney is focusing on economics, pointing out that under Obama’s administration, the median household income is lower and the unemployment rate is higher than it is for Americans at large.

With two-thirds of Hispanic voters born in the US, the economy may be a more important factor than immigration issues. Romney is banking on the fact that for many Hispanic voters, the issues that are most pressing are education, jobs, health care and the economy – the same issues that any voter is concerned with. Recent polls certainly suggest that Hispanic voters are divided when it comes to the issues that will affect their voting.