Not All Hope Is Lost: Latinos & California Republicans

March 17, 2011

The growth of the Latino vote in California should compel the state’s Republican candidates to learn more about this growing demographic whose share of the statewide vote has consistently grown. In the case of the 2010 election, Latino voters cast 1.7 million votes statewide, an increase of 300,000 votes from the 2008 presidential election.

To better understand this growing constituency we completed a survey of 400 likely California Latino voters March 12-14, 2011 to gain a clearer picture of their attitudes on key issues and toward the Republican Party. The survey was conducted by Moore Information, Inc. with an assist by Marty Wilson and its purpose was to begin the process of understanding both the challenges as well as the opportunities for future Republican candidates in gaining a greater share of the Latino vote.

First, let’s get to the challenges that face the Republican Party and its candidates with California Latinos by looking at the data:

  • Latino voters are widely negative about the Republican Party (26 percent favorable/47 percent unfavorable/27 percent no opinion) and widely positive about the Democrat Party (62/22/17).
  • The GOP is not going to win many Latino voters by emphasizing Conservatism; only 22 percent suggest that Republicans should, “stick to core values and nominate true Conservatives.”
  • While approximately a third of Latino voters say they will never vote for a Republican, a third also suggest they would consider GOP candidates if “Republicans move toward the center and nominate candidates who are less Conservative.”

An issue often associated with this important voter segment is immigration. And it should come as no surprise that this issue is the elephant in the GOP living room:

  • The Arizona immigration law is widely unpopular; only 25 percent approve, while 71 percent disapprove of the law.
  • A pathway to citizenship for those who have entered the country illegally is the most important element of immigration reform for Latino voters. A pathway is favored by 67 percent overall and 57% of Latino Republicans. However, securing the border and stopping illegal immigration are higher priorities.

Are things as bad as the Los Angeles Times pollster said after some similar findings, “I don’t know how any Republican thinks they can win in California?” Is it hopeless to think California Republicans can capture a larger share of the Latino vote?

The simple answer to that is no, but there is also work to be done to convince California Latinos that the Republican Party and its candidates can effectively represent them. Contrary to the Times’ prophecy, we believe Republicans can win again in California based on key issues:

  • There is a way for GOP candidates to talk about immigration. More than seven-in-ten voters will consider a candidate who says, “secure the border first, stop illegal immigration, then find a way to address the status of people already here illegally” (73 percent favorable reaction).
  • More than six-in-ten Latino voters are likely to consider voting for a GOP candidate who would “ensure all children had a chance at a first rate education” (69 percent), who they agreed with on improving the economy and creating jobs (65 percent) and with whom they agree on protecting America from terrorists (63 percent).
  • Latino voters are more pro-life on abortion (45 percent say they are pro-choice, 45 percent pro-life) than voters are statewide (56 percent of voters statewide say they are pro-choice and 36 percent pro-life).
  • Philosophically, a third are self described “Conservatives,” a third are Moderate and a quarter are Liberal. Their ideological makeup is significantly more Conservative than that of Democratic voters.
  • Finally, Latino voters are more likely to be regular church attendees than the statewide voting population – 43 percent of Latino voters attend church once a week or more often, compared to just 32 percent among the California electorate as a whole.

The 2010 election results for Republicans were, to be charitable, disappointing. We know from CNN exit poll data that the two top Republicans on the ballot, Meg Whitman and Carly Fiorina, received approximately 30 percent of the Latino votes cast – not nearly enough to win. Clearly, Republican candidates must do better and must set their sights on earning at least 40 percent of these votes, if they are to have a reasonable expectation of gaining statewide office. Based on this very preliminary data we believe over time, this is an achievable goal but it will take a sustained and focused communications effort based on issues such as education and job creation. Further, this work can’t wait until a few weeks before the next election – the work must begin today. Click here to read more.

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