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GOP Magical Thinking: Pathway IS Crucial to Latinos

Monday, August 11th, 2014

latinovotersEvery now and then, some misguided conservative stumbles onto a poll finding that immigration is not the No. 1 issue for Latino voters and he cries “Eureka!” as if this were proof that the right wing can continue to oppose immigration reform and still attract this growing bloc of voters to their candidates and causes.

Our old pal Jon Fleischman of FlashReport, has made this blunder, egged on by the glassy-eyed analysis of the Republican pollsters at Moore Information (what role Democratic pollster David Binder played was unclear). Exclaimed Flash breathlessly: “Immigration is only the 6th-most-important issue for Latino voters in California when casting a vote for a candidate for U.S. Senator or for U.S. Congress.”

No shit, Sherlock. As Calbuzz has explained over and over and over again, when asked to list the top issues, Latinos, like everyone else, cite education, the economy and security, depending on conditions at any given time.

But that misses the point entirely. For Latino voters, immigration is what we call a threshold or gateway issue: in a list of issues, it’s never No. 1. But if a candidate is opposed to a pathway to legality or citizenship for undocumented immigrants, Latino voters don’t even want to hear what he or she has to say about education, the economy or security. (eMeg, take note.)

It’s that way with huge numbers of women for choice on abortion: They rarely declare it their No. 1 issue, but candidates who are opposed to choice are, by and large, dead meat among a majority of women voters.

wileecoyotePathway is the Way We’re not going to deconstruct the entire survey that Moore Methods did for Univision, which never asked respondent Latinos if they’d be more or less inclined to vote for a candidate who opposes a pathway to citizenship (or if they did ask, they didn’t release the data).

But a few findings from interviews with 930 registered voters who identified as Latinos are worth mentioning.

For starters, 86% — that’s a BIG number in polling – would “support a law that allowed undocumented immigrants, already in the United States with no serious criminal record, to apply for legal status, learn English, pay outstanding taxes and a penalty and then go to the back of the line and work toward citizenship.”

It was 88% in Los Angeles and Sacramento, 87% in the Central Valley and San Diego, and 80% in the Bay Area.

Even without all the qualifications, 71% of Latino voters answered in the positive when asked: “Generally speaking, do you favor or oppose a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.”

What Fleischman seized on was the response to a loaded question that was kind of like asking respondents if they think child molesters should go to jail or be let go with a warning, to wit:

“Some people say we should require borders to be secured before providing a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants” or, “Other people say we should pass comprehensive immigration reform and a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants without requiring borders to be secured first.”

Despite this obvious attempt to get a number they could spin, the pollsters found only 58% favoring requiring border security first compared to 42% who favored passing comprehensive reform (and apparently doing nothing about securing the borders).

LonelyElephantLonely planet What Fleischman and his cronies still don’t grasp is that there’s a reason why Latino voters have a 60% favorable view of the Democratic Party and a 57% unfavorable view of the Republican Party.

“They mostly care about corporations and big business,” “their own self interests” and “they favor the rich” were offered to respondents as separate reasons for their disfavor; these added up to 48% of the reasons. “They are against immigration reform” was cited by 10% — a very large percentage as a stand-alone rationale for disliking a party.

It’s an exercise in self-denial to continue to hope that Republicans can draw Latino support without fundamentally altering their opposition to a pathway to legality (at least) for undocumented immigrants. Not that we expect the GOP to start listening to our advice, on their own pathway – to utter irrelevance.