Latino participation in the nation’s elections has been rising. A record 9.7 million Latinos (50% of Latino eligible voters) cast a vote in the 2008 presidential election (Lopez and Taylor, 2009). In last year’s midterm election, a record 6.6 million Latinos voted—31% of Latino eligible voters (Lopez, 2011).
Rapid population growth has fueled rapid growth in the number of Latinos eligible to vote.8 According to Pew Hispanic Center estimates, more than 21.7 million Hispanics are eligible to participate in next year’s election—the most ever and up by more than 2 million since 2008, when 19.5 million Latinos were eligible to vote.
With the 2012 presidential election around the corner, the Pew Hispanic survey reveals that more than half (56%) of Latino registered voters say they have given not much or no thought to the candidates who might be running for president.
Even so, when asked about hypothetical presidential match-ups between President Obama and potential Republican challengers, support for Obama is strong and closely matches results from the 2008 presidential election, when Obama carried 67% of the Latino vote while Republican John McCain took 31% (Lopez, 2008).
Obama versus Mitt Romney
In a hypothetical race between Obama and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, 68% of Latino registered voters say they support Obama and fewer than one-in-four (23%) say they support Romney. Among the general public, by contrast, about half (49%) of all registered voters say they support Obama while 47% say they support Romney, according to the most recent Pew Research Center for the People & the Press (2011c) survey.
Support for Obama or Romney falls along party lines. Among Hispanic registered voters who identify with or lean toward the Republican Party, Romney wins 62% to 29%. Among those who identify with or lean toward the Democratic Party, Obama wins 82% to 12%.
Even among those who disapprove of the way Obama is handling the issue of deportations, a majority support his reelection over Romney—57% to 34%.
Obama versus Rick Perry
In a hypothetical match-up between Obama and Texas Gov. Rick Perry, Obama carries the Hispanic vote 69% to 23%. Among all registered voters, Obama wins 53% to 42% (Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, 2011c).
Among Republican Latino registered voters, Perry wins 62% to Obama’s 31%. Among Democratic Latino registered voters, Obama wins 82% to 13%.
Among those who disapprove of the Obama administration’s handling of the issue of deportations, 61% support Obama, while 31% support Perry.
Florida Senator Marco Rubio
The Pew Hispanic survey asked Latinos about their opinion of Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio. Rubio, who is of Cuban ancestry, has been discussed as a potential vice presidential running mate to any possible Republican presidential nominee.
The survey reveals that Rubio is not well known among Latinos. When asked about their opinion of Rubio, more than half of Latinos say they have either never heard of him (39%), respond “don’t know” (11%) or can’t rate him (2%). Similarly, more than half (54%) of Latino registered voters say they either have never heard of him (40%), don’t know (10%) or can’t rate him (4%).
Among all Latinos, those who have heard of Rubio more have a favorable opinion (31%) than an unfavorable opinion (15%). Among Latino registered voters who have heard of Rubio, 27% say they have a favorable opinion of him while 18% say they have an unfavorable opinion.
Overall, among Hispanic registered voters, Rubio is viewed more favorably among Republicans (45%) than he is among Democrats (24%). Even so, a significant minority (40%) of Hispanic Republicans, and a majority of Hispanic Democrats (57%), either have never heard of him, don’t know or can’t rate him.
Obama’s Job Approval Rating among Latino Registered Voters
Just over half (54%) of Latino registered voters say they approve of the way in which Barack Obama is handling his job as president, a higher share than among all registered voters (46%) (Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, 2011c).
However, Obama’s job approval rating among Latino registered voters has declined 9 percentage points since 2010. Then, 63% of Latino registered voters said they approved of Obama’s job performance (Lopez, 2010).
The decline in Obama’s approval rating has occurred among nearly all major groups of Latino registered voters. Among Latino Democrats, Obama’s approval rating has declined 15 percentage points, falling from 78% in 2010 to 63% today. Among Latino Republicans, Obama’s approval rating also declined, though by less—from 34% in 2010 to 25% today.
Obama’s job approval rating among young Latinos is down 20 percentage points since 2010—falling from 73% then to 53% today among those ages 18 to 29. Smaller declines occurred among Latino registered voters ages 30 to 49 (down 7 percentage points) and ages 50 to 64 (down 11 percentage points). Only among Latino registered voters ages 65 and older is Obama’s approval rating higher—up 6 percentage points since 2010 to 58%.
Among Latino registered voters who disapprove of the administration’s handling of deportations, 49% disapprove of Obama’s job performance while 43% approve. Among all Latinos who disapprove of the way the Obama administration is handling the issue of deportations, more disapprove of the president’s job performance than approve—54% versus 36%.
Top Issues among Latinos
Latino registered voters rank pocketbook and family issues as their top concerns, according to the Pew Hispanic survey. Half say the issue of jobs is extremely important to them personally, followed by education (49%) and health care (45%).
One-third (33%) of Latino registered voters say immigration is extremely important to them personally, and just as many (34%) identify the issues of taxes or the federal budget deficit as extremely important.
Compared with 2010, the same three issues are rated as personally important to Hispanic registered voters in 2011, though relative positions have changed. In 2010, more Latino registered voters said that education (58%) was extremely important to them, followed by jobs (54%) and health care (51%) (Lopez, 2010). Even so, today’s top three issues reflect rankings observed previously in Pew Hispanic Center surveys (Lopez and Livingston, 2009).
When it comes to all Latino adults, a different ranking of issues emerges from the Pew Hispanic survey. Some 48% identify education as extremely important to them, while 47% say jobs and 40% say health care are extremely important. Among all Latino adults, immigration (34%) ranks as the fourth issue, followed by taxes (30%) and the federal budget deficit (29%).