As part of our Target Voter Series, Resurgent Republic sponsored four focus groups among Hispanic voters in Albuquerque, New Mexico and Las Vegas, Nevada. These respondents all voted for President Obama in 2008, but are undecided on the generic presidential ballot today. They also identified as Independents, and nearly 60 percent of the respondents leaned Democrat. Conducted by Impacto Group LLC, the focus groups were split between Spanish-preferred (first or second generation) and English-preferred/Bilingual groups (primarily third or fourth generation).
In 2008 less than one-third of Hispanic voters supported the Republican nominee for President (31 percent, down from 44 percent in 2004). A majority of Hispanic voters identify as Democrats both in name and at the ballot box, yet there is a sizable segment of Hispanic swing voters (20 to 30 percent) who lean Democrat but do not have a strong affiliation. In addition, these voters are primarily concerned about the direction of the economy and finding quality jobs. If conservatives are to increase their support among Hispanics, they will need to connect with these voters.
Compared to 2008, President Obama is underperforming among this critically important voting bloc in battleground states where Hispanic voters will be the determining factor. However, it remains to be seen to what extent, if any, conservatives can turn any disillusionment with President Obama into increased support this November.
These qualitative findings further dispel the myth of the Hispanic community being a monolithic voting bloc. The top priority for both the Spanish-preferred and the English-Bilingual respondents is the direction of the economy and improving their own financial security. The Spanish-preferred voters also hold a more unfavorable impression of the Republican brand. The English-Bilingual respondents share views similar to mainstream, middle-class swing voters interviewed by Resurgent Republic in separate focus groups. They are more likely to view their Hispanic culture as ethnicity, not immigrant status, and favor enforcement as part of immigration reform.
Additional key findings include:
When asked what things, if any, they dislike about President Obama, their feedback centers on "weak leadership." Similar to non-Hispanic swing voters, President Obama holds solid personal appeal with this target demographic, especially the Spanish-preferred voters. Also like other swing voters, these respondents are disappointed and frustrated that Obama has not been able to "change" Washington. A majority of respondents cite Obama's "weak leadership" and political naiveté as weaknesses that have limited his ability to get the country on the right track. There's a sense that the President is not strong enough in dealing with Congress, which contributes to his inability to "make things happen." Compared to the non-Hispanic focus groups we've conducted, this leadership critique is more prevalent among Hispanic voters since immigration reform is still pending. Some even suggest Obama can be "wish-washy."
Even so, Hispanic voters do not solely blame President Obama, whether the topic is immigration reform or the economy. Regardless of the promises made during the campaign, they believe congressional Republicans are an obstacle, and similar to other demographic groups we talked to, these Hispanics feel Obama needs more time to turn around the economy given the downturn he inherited. Even when reminded that Democrats controlled Congress for the first two years of Obama's presidency, their default response is to blame congressional Republicans for blocking the President's priorities, especially the Spanish-preferred voters.
Not surprisingly, the Republican brand is tarnished among these Hispanic voters, especially the Spanish-preferred respondents. Despite being viewed as sharing some important beliefs (pro-business, pro-jobs, low taxes, small government, and a strong military), the Republican Party is not seen as representing the best interests of the Hispanic community. Overall, the Republican brand is perceived unfavorably and described as a party "for the rich," "out of touch with 'our' community" and "not sharing 'our' values." Respondents feel Republicans, while conservative, lack compassion, are often too conservative, and are to blame for blocking President Obama's priorities. Hispanic voters do give Republicans credit for sticking to their beliefs, though.
More interestingly, many of these Hispanic voters say that no one from either political party is talking to them or listening to their concerns. They want "change" and an alternative to the situation for themselves and their families.
In their own words: the values Hispanic swing voters say immigration laws should reflect. In all four groups, respondents were asked what kind of values immigration laws should reflect. There was a great deal of discussion about seeking opportunity, hard work, achieving the American dream, fairness, humane treatment, impartiality, and concern over the separation of families. As a result, they see immigrants as having a positive impact on society. As one Hispanic voter said, many "don't want to leave their family, but many have to [in order] for a better opportunity." When asked why she was visibly emotional during this discussion, a Spanish-speaking woman in Las Vegas detailed the following story:
"Because I have seen a lot of things. One time I was in McDonalds with my grandchildren and I saw a young girl with her baby about 8 months old. This other girl came and grabbed them kissing and crying and she asked the baby's mother if she could take the baby in her arms. This girl explained 'I had to leave a child like this and right now she would be this same age.' She hugged him and carried him and I almost cried. There is a lot like that...mothers who have to come here and leave their children back home with their grandmothers so they can all survive. And, that is very sad. It hurts my feelings."
These voters express mixed feelings regarding immigrants. On one hand they recognize that many are good and hardworking people, follow the rules and contribute to society if given a chance. On the other hand, they express frustration when undocumented immigrants get help when they cannot. The Spanish-preferred respondents are quick to note that undocumented immigrants pay taxes through purchases (they do not delineate between consumption and payroll or income taxes). The English-Bilingual respondents say that immigrants should be held to the same standards as citizens and believe learning English is necessary to getting ahead.
Similar to our previous polling among Hispanic voters, the majority of respondents in both groups favor immigration reform that leads to legal status or citizenship. Most notably among the Spanish-preferred respondents, they clearly differentiate between individuals who follow the rules but fail to have the correct documentation and others who blatantly participate in criminal activity. All respondents feel that enforcement alone has not worked. Instead they suggest a combination of enforcement and earned citizenship, especially among the English-Bilingual voters.
The Target Voter Series is a project of 24 focus groups among Obama Independents who are undecided on the generic presidential ballot. The focus groups are taking place in 11 battleground states among six key demographic groups (Suburban Women, Young Voters, Seniors, Independents, Hispanics, and Blue Collar Catholics). This is the fifth of six memos to be released in the series.
Albuquerque, New Mexico
March 27, 2012
Spanish-preferred / English-Bicultural
Conducted by Impacto Group LLC
Las Vegas, Nevada
March 28, 2012
Spanish-preferred / English-Bicultural
Conducted by Impacto Group LLC