Latino support for President Obama was huge, with a record-breaking 75% of Latino voters nationwide (see below) casting their ballot for the President- the previous high for Latino voters was the 72% for Bill Clinton in 1996. Romney’s share of 23% was nowhere near the 38% his team identified as his “magic number” for Latinos nationally.
The Latino vote share numbers across key states were even more pronounced, with Latinos exceeding the national average of 75% in most of the battleground states, including a remarkable 87% in Colorado and 80% in Nevada. The 66% of Latinos who voted for Obama in Virginia, 58% in Florida, and 82% in Ohio were also critical to the overall outcome of the race. At the end of the day, we estimate that the Latino vote led to a net margin gain for President Obama of +5.4%, and a +2.3% bump in the national popular vote. Consequently, if Latinos had split their vote evenly (50/50) in this election, President Obama would have lost the national popular vote. For the first time in American history, the Latino electorate has a legitimate claim of being nationally decisive!
What explains the huge numbers for Obama? As detailed in the webinar slides, Romney suffered from both an outreach problem to Latino voters as well as a policy agenda that just did not resonate with the Latino electorate. A robust 56% of Latino voters nationally did not feel that Romney “cares much” about the Latino community, with another 18% feeling as though the Romney campaign was “hostile” toward the Latino community. Conversely, 66% of Latinos indicated that President Obama “cares about” the Latino community. The same general pattern held across the state specific polls.
As we have been consistently reporting throughout the campaign, immigration policy was the key policy that likely explains the significant gap in vote choice for Latinos in 2012. Overall, 35% of Latino voters indicated that immigration policy was one of the two most important issues to the Latino community in 2012, with greater percentages across several key battleground states. As depicted below, Romney’s policy stance on immigration led nearly 60% of Latino voters to feel less enthusiastic about him, while President Obama benefited from a 58% increase in enthusiasm for his deferred action policy.
In what we view will be a watershed moment in American political history, Latino voters delivered in a major way for President Obama and the Democratic Party in 2012. Stay tuned for more in-depth analysis from Latino Decisions over the next few weeks, including a series of blogs focused on the nuances within several key states that decided the 2012 race.
This article was first published in Latino Decisions.[Photo By bradleygee]