WASHINGTON President George W. Bush and prominent members of the GOP leadership have high hopes for Latino voters, believing them the key to a potential political realignment. This hope underlies the administration's approach to many issues, including proposals to grant amnesty to millions of Mexican illegal aliens.
Is this pursuit of Latino voters realistic? Will support for an illegal-alien amnesty and other measures win the votes of this increasingly consequential electoral bloc? To answer these questions, the Center for Immigration Studies has published "Impossible Dream or Distant Reality?: Republican Efforts to Attract Latino Voters" by James G. Gimpel and Karen Kaufmann, professors of government at University of Maryland, College Park. Using recent polls to assess the potential for such a realignment, this paper examines partisan identification and voting behavior among Hispanics.
The paper's key points include:
* Democrats lead Republicans by a comfortable margin in the partisan identification of Latino voters. The gap is even wider among immigrant Latinos who have not yet become citizens. As many of these non-citizens naturalize, the political affiliation of Latinos is likely to shift still further toward the Democratic party.
* Across all nationality groups except Cubans, the Democratic advantage in party identification among Latinos is greater than 20 percentage points, and this is true across nearly all states. Even among Cuban-Americans, the once large GOP lead has dwindled to just six percentage points.
* Latinos become more Democratic, not less, with increasing education and tenure in the United States. Rising income also does not appreciably change Latino partisanship.
* Contrary to the thinking within the Bush White House, there is no evidence that a significant percentage of the Latino vote is "in play."
* Current immigration policy is slowly but steadily shifting the nation's electorate toward the Democratic Party.
* There is no indication that the Republican or Democratic positions on immigration policy explain the orientation of Latino voters. Rather, it seems that the core positions of the Republican Party are simply not as attractive to Latino voters as are those of the Democratic Party.
The full report is on line at http://www.cis.org/articles/2001/back901.html