By Fidel “Butch” Montoya
The National Survey of Latino Protestants: Immigration and the 2008 Election revealed some interesting information about who Latinos may end supporting for president, plus outlining issues that may play a role in how Latinos may vote in the upcoming election.
The survey finds that Latino Protestant voters may have shifted their support from the Republican Party to the Democratic presidential candidate. The results of the survey also claim immigration is a key factor in helping Latinos determine how they will cast their vote.
One very interesting factor revealed by the survey shows that Latinos are blaming both political parties for “the negative rhetoric on immigration.”
The biased notion reported by the news media indicting the Republican Party as being the chief culprit in creating a very negative and hateful tone against undocumented immigrants has not fully convinced Latinos that the GOP is the sole instigator of this anti-immigrant movement.
There is no doubt, the Republican’s pursuit of their heavy handed enforcement only strategy has incubated the anti immigration atmosphere of fear and hate in our country, however, Latinos are quick to point out the Democrat Party has not done much to differentiate themselves from the Republicans on this issue.
When powerful Democratic leaders like Representative Rahm Emanuel continue to pressure Democratic members of the House to support legislation like the SAVE Act, and the failed H. B. 4437 which would have made religious leaders and other leaders in non-profit organizations who work with undocumented immigrants – felons. It is sometimes difficult to distinguish who is more anti-immigrant.
In fact, in my opinion, both parties are equally vague when it comes to how they will champion immigration reform in a new administration after the election determines the next president.
In breaking down the numbers of the recently released poll, it is somewhat confusing just how much support John McCain is receiving from Latino voters.
The National Survey of Latino Protestants indicates that Obama is benefiting by a shift in the support of Latinos by a wide margin, and that immigration is a key factor in helping influence their support.
Other polls conducted among the Latino voter have shown that immigration is in fact not the only reason some Latinos are supporting Obama over McCain.
Many of the previous polls have shown that Latino voters are equally concerned about the economy as the number one issue, with the war in Iraq, education, and other bread and butter issues that concern other mainstream voters.
However, I do agree with the statement Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, President of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference made about the new survey. “This poll powerfully demonstrates that immigration is a profoundly religious issue for Hispanic evangelicals. We will vote our faith and we will vote our values. It’s time that all candidates take notice.”
In my opinion, we must be careful what the new poll numbers accurately reflect about the Latino voter versus what the new poll surveyed – “Latino Protestants” reflects. Looking back at other surveys and polls, the new survey seems to be cutting out a new sub-group of voter presences.
For example, the new survey says that Latino Protestants are supporting Obama by a”wider margin”, than they supported President George W. Bush in the 2004 election. The survey states that Obama has the support of Latino Protestants by 50.4% compared to the 33.6% for McCain. 10.4% of the voters remain undecided, which I believe is a large number of undecided voters each candidate needs to work to get them in their column.
The survey states, “This represents a dramatic shift from 2004 when George W. Bush soundly won the Latino Protestant vote*.” I believe this statement clearly needs an asterisk as to not confuse the percentage of support that President Bush enjoyed in the 2004 election.
Surveys taken after the 2004 election have shown that President Bush had 40% to 44% of the Latino vote. In fact, Bush increased his support among Latinos from 2000 to 2004 by almost 7% to 11%.
While I researched other 2004 surveys looking for a voter sub-group or a voter pool of “Latino Protestants” that reflected the preference of this group, I have been unable to find a breakdown of support by this Latino voter sub-group.
For me it is difficult to say that McCain has lost a large percentage of the Latino voters while the new survey is indicating he is now receiving 33.6% of the “Latino Protestant” voter.
By reviewing the post 2004-election results showing the level of support “Latinos“ gave Bush and the results of this new survey is almost like comparing apples to oranges. It is impossible to do.
Here is where it can get tricky if we are not careful to co-mingle the “Latino Protestant” voter of 2008, with perhaps a larger poll sub-group of “Latino” voters of 2004.
If we take the figures from 2004 surveys and new survey results from the National Survey of Latino Protestants: Immigration and the 2008 Election, we can very well draw the conclusion that McCain is on track to match Bush’s Latino support in 2008.
Bush received 40% of the Latino vote in 2008, and the newly released survey shows 33.6% for McCain, McCain seems to be holding his own with Latino voters. In fact, from an earlier 2008 survey, McCain has increased his support from 26% Latino support.
Several pollsters have disputed the 40% support that Bush received in 2004 claiming the results were closer to 37% or even less.
If these pollsters have heart burn over the fact that some post 2004 election surveys have Bush at 40% of the Latino vote, imagine the level of discomfort they must have when reading the results from the new recently released survey that states, “According to 2004 post-election survey data, Bush won 63% of this segment of the Latino electorate.”
Whether or not the results of the new survey show more movement from the Latino voter toward the Democratic Party is open to debate. The fact that McCain is receiving 33.6% support among Latino voters is a signal to both candidates that Latinos are not running in droves to the Obama candidacy, particularly when you factor in the 10.4% that remains undecided.
Dr. Jesse Miranda, of the Jesse Miranda Center for Hispanic Leadership at Vanguard University, best explains the strategy both candidates need to work out to secure a greater percentage of the Latino voter. “However, this energy can shift in the opposite direction unless there is support of what is important in terms of the interests and concerns of the largest minority in this country. This should be a clarion call to the next U. S. president.”
With a religious standard of justice and compassion toward undocumented immigrants, Latino voters value the importance of having the federal government living up to its responsibility to reform our antiqued immigration laws.
Yet, no political candidate should forget for one moment that Latinos also value a good economy, jobs that pay adequate salaries, quality educational opportunities, an end to the war in Iraq, and a new president that can restore our standing as a nation of justice, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
At this stage of the election, Democrats should not take the Latino vote for granted and Republicans in spite of the negative rhetoric from some members of the party, can still be convinced to vote for the candidate closer to their values and beliefs.
After all, there are still Democrats who have lost their way, and instead of pushing a favorable political agenda for Latino voters, their politics reflect a very negative anti-immigrant and Latino political position, which is one reason the Latino voter has not given its soul to the Democratic Party.
Fidel “Butch” Montoya
H. S. Power & Light Ministries – Latino Faith Initiative
Denver, Colorado 80212