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Poll: Immigration top issue for Arizona’s Latino voters

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PHOENIX – Registered Latino voters in Arizona are more concerned about immigration policy than the economy and far more likely to vote for President Barack Obama, a poll released Tuesday suggests.

Asked to list two issues of importance to the Hispanic community, 55 percent of respondents to the Latino Decisions/America’s Voice Survey listed immigration and the DREAM Act while 44 percent listed the economy and jobs. Education/schools was next at 15 percent.

America’s Voice, a Washington, D.C.-based group that lobbies for immigration reform, commissioned the poll.

At a news conference announcing and analyzing the results, a panel of academics and community organizers said illegal immigration makes sense as a top issue.

“For Latino voters, the issue of immigration is there, it has been there, it’s not going away,” said Rodolfo Espino, an associate professor in Arizona State University’s School of Politics and Global Studies.

Meanwhile, when asked who would get their vote were the presidential election held that day, 80 percent of respondents said they would vote for President Barack Obama, while 14 percent favored Republican Mitt Romney.

Espino said he wasn’t ready to credit Obama’s large lead in the poll to concern about immigration.

“It can cut both ways for Obama,” he said, noting that some Latino voters were upset with Democrats as well as Republicans after SB 1070 passed even though Democrats opposed it.

Latino Decisions, a political polling firm that conducted the poll, has estimated that approximately 640,000 Latinos are registered to vote in Arizona. There were 3.1 million registered voters overall for Arizona’s primary election.

The poll, conducted from Sept. 29 to Oct. 4, involved 400 registered Latinos randomly selected from voter rolls and interviewed in English or Spanish, according to the interviewee’s preference. The results have a margin for error of plus or minus 4.9 percentage points.

In response to a reporter’s question, Gary Segura, a principal with Latino Decisions and a professor of American politics and chair of Chicano/a-Latino/a studies at Stanford University, said the results had nothing to do with the support by America’s Voice for immigration reform.

“America’s Voice is a valued client for Latino Decisions, but it’s not our only client,” Segura said. “And if we were in the business of cooking the books for a client, we’d very quickly run out of clients because people would raise exactly that sort of thing.”

Calling immigration a litmus test that frames nearly every other issue, Stephen Nuño, an assistant professor with Northern Arizona University’s Department of Politics and International Affairs, said in a telephone interview that the GOP message of job creation isn’t as likely to resonate with Latino voters in Arizona put off by the party’s hard line on immigration.

“Even though jobs are important, who cares?” said Nuño, speaking as a hypothetical Latino voter. “You don’t like me, so why would I trust you with jobs if you don’t even deem that I have or require the respect that you consider me as being part of this country?”

Other findings in the poll included:

  • Seventy-one percent said they would definitely vote for their district’s Democratic candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives, as opposed to 14 percent saying the same for their district’s Republican candidate.
  • Seventy-five percent said they were certain to vote for Richard Carmona in the U.S. Senate race, while 12 percent said the same for Rep. Jeff Flake, R-Mesa.
  • Sixty percent said that they were more enthusiastic about voting in 2012 than they were in 2008, while 22 percent said there was no difference.