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Colorado: Post-election poll analyzes Latino vote

President Barack Obama.

Overwhelming Latino support was a key piece of President Obama’s Colorado win

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Changing demographics in swing states have already been widely discussed in the national media as a key factor in President Barack Obama’s win, but post-election polling that drills down a bit more adds some details.

The candidates’ positions on immigration and other issues important to the Latino community were crucial helping Obama win in Colorado, according to data from impreMedia and Latino Decisions. The polling results suggests the Latino vote determined the outcome of the election in the state — and that Latinos were under-represented in pre-election polling, leading to skewed projections on the closeness of the race.

In Colorado, Latino voters supported Obama over Romney by an overwhelming 87 percent to 10 percent margin, the largest split of all eleven states in the poll, for a net contribution of 9.5 percentage points to Obama (based on Latino Decisions’ estimate that Latinos accounted for 12.5 percent of the total Colorado electorate).

Support for Obama increased over Latino Decisions’ two polls of Latino voters in Colorado in June and September, and peaked at 87 percent at election time.  In a number that might help explain the upward trend, 62 percent of Colorado’s Latino voters said they became more enthusiastic about President Obama after he announced a new policy in June to stop the deportation of immigrant youth.

“Colorado’s Latinos care deeply about the immigration issue, though the economy and jobs has been their top priority,” said Jesus Altamirano, regional coordinator for the National Council of La Raza. “It is an issue that is certainly close to our hearts. The majority of us know someone who is or was undocumented.  It is definitely an issue that has energized the community this election,” Altamirano said.

“The pre-election polls in Colorado showed a near dead heat between Obama and Romney, but Obama ended up winning the state by more than four points. We saw a similar phenomenon in 2010 with Senator Bennet’s race and the Senate race in Nevada,” said Patty Kupfer, managing director of America’s Voice.”

“I can’t help but assume that Latino voters, especially Spanish-dominant ones, continue to be undercounted in most polls, and these are voters that lean more Democratic.” Kupfer added. “It’s unmistakable that Latino voters delivered Colorado for President Obama, and it may just be that Colorado was never as close as everyone thought because of the poor track record in polling this community.”

“The continued and high level of support among Latinos for President Obama and Democratic candidates certainly contributed to a significant portion of their margins of victory in Colorado,” said According to Robert Preuhs, associate professor of political science at Metro State University of Denver. “Perhaps the most compelling aspect of the results is the recognition by both parties of the importance of Latino voters to their success, as almost 60 percent were contacted by one of the major parties,” Preuhs said.

“With 39 percent of Latinos contacted by the Republican Party and 75 percent contacted by the Democrats, Latinos and the issues important to them, including immigration reform, are apt to influence Colorado politics for the foreseeable future.”

Latino Decisions’ Colorado numbers show significantly larger support for President Obama than the national exit poll, which estimated 74 percent Latino support for Obama.

The results suggest that pollsters and political analysts risk making similar mistakes in future elections if they don’t beef up their polling. In the 2010 Senate and gubernatorial races in Colorado, the national exit poll did not have a large or representative enough Latino sample to make any predictions at all about who Latinos voted for.

Meanwhile, Latino Decisions’ election-eve polling came within a few percentage points of precinct returns.  In contrast, Latino Decisions has been called the “gold standard” of Latino voter polling, using highly sophisticated methods to identify Latino voters who are extremely likely to vote and ensure a representative sample.  More information on the methods used by Latino Decisions to complete the 2010 election eve survey is available here.

Among the poll’s findings:

  • In the presidential race, 87 percent of Colorado Latinos voted for President Obama, while 10 percent voted for Mitt Romney.
  • In Colorado’s U.S. House races, 88 percent of Latinos voted for the Democratic candidate in their district, while 12 percent voted for the Republican.

Top Issues for Latino Voters

  • 50 percent of Colorado Latinos said that fixing the economy and creating more jobs was the most important issue facing the Latino community that Congress and the President should address.  This was followed by 34 percent who said the same about immigration reform and the DREAM Act, 17 percent who named education reform, and 16 percent who named health care.

Immigration Isn’t Just Policy, It’s Personal

  • 63 percent of Latino voters in Colorado know someone who is undocumented.
  • 80 percent of Colorado Latinos said that Obama “truly cares” about the Latino community, 14 percent said he “didn’t care too much,” and 2 percent described him as “hostile.” Meanwhile,  9 percent of respondents said that Romney “truly cares” about the Latino community, 59 percent said he “didn’t care too much,” and 27 percent said he “was hostile.”
  • After hearing about President Obama’s deferred action policy, 62 percent of respondents said that they were “more enthusiastic” about voting for Obama and 4 percent said that they were “less enthusiastic.”
  • After hearing about Mitt Romney’s campaign platform of “self-deportation” and learning that he would not revoke deferred action for DREAMers whose applications are approved under Obama but would stop approving new applications once he is elected, 5 percent of respondents said that they were “more enthusiastic” about Romney and 68 percent of respondents said that they were “less enthusiastic.”
  • If the Republican Party “took a leadership role in supporting comprehensive immigration reform, with an eventual pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, and Republicans worked to ensure it would pass,” 24 percent of respondents said they would be more likely to vote Republican.

For the full results from Colorado, other battleground states, and the national poll, click http://www.latinodecisions.com/2012-election-eve-polls/.

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