By Nicole Rojas (staff@latinospost.com) | First Posted: Oct 16, 2012 10:50 AM EDT

Supporters listen to U.S. President Barack Obama speak at the Cesar E. Chavez National Monument in Keene, California, as part of his three day campaign swing in California and Ohio, October 8, 2012. (Photo : Reuters)

A new report released by Latino Decisions revealed that Latino voters might lean the state in favor of President Barack Obama in next month's presidential election. According to polls by Real Clear Politics, Obama leads Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney 48.4 percent to 47.6 percent. The less than one percent difference may require candidates to rely on the Latino vote.

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Latino Decisions reported that the number of eligible Latino voters in Virginia grew dramatically by 76 percent from 2000 to 2010. A poll conducted by Latino Decisions and America's Voice found that 66 percent of Latino voters in Virginia expect to vote for Obama. In comparison, only 22 percent of Virginia Latinos expect to vote for Romney.

This election season, Latinos have become a key interest to candidates and eligible voter numbers rise. According to Latino Decisions, a top priority among Latino voters is the issue of immigration, with 64 percent of Virginia Latinos listing it as a top priority.

Romney and other Republicans have taken a strict stance on immigration, thus alienating many Latino voters. On the other hand, Obama and Democrats are seen as embracing immigrants and immigration reform, leading to higher Latino support in the presidential race.

Michael McDonald, an associate professor at George Mason University, said, "Immigration is a personal issue that affects Latinos' attitudes towards candidates even if they don't explicitly name immigration as one of the most important issues facing the country."

"The new poll shows the importance of the new deferred action policy to Latino voters in Virginia-and especially undecided voters. With undecided voters expressing more enthusiasm for Obama after hearing about his deferred action policy and less enthusiasm for Romney after hearing about his plans to halt the program upon taking office, it's clear that opposing this policy is a net negative for candidates who want to appeal to the Latino vote," McDonald added.

Since Obama's deferred action policy was passed, 57 percent of Virginia Latino voters said they were "more enthusiastic" about voting for Obama, the poll found. On the other hand, eight percent of Virginia Latinos said they were "less enthusiastic" about voting for him.

Romney's announcement that he would stop approving applications for deferred action if elected wielded opposite reactions. Only 13 percent of those questioned said they were "more enthusiastic" to vote for Romney, while 43 percent said they were "less enthusiastic" about voting for him.

"President Obama's decision in June to grant deferred action to DREAMers marked a 'turning point' among Latino voters around the country, making them significantly more enthusiastic about voting in November-and national polling results understate the level of enthusiasm among Latino voters in battleground states like Virginia, who are more engaged than Latinos in less-contested states like California and Texas," said Matt Barreto, principal at Latino Decisions and an assistant professor at the University of Washington.

Barreto added, "The growing population of Latino voters in Virginia is both more enthusiastic about the election than most Latinos, and more likely to decide the outcome of the very close presidential and Senate races here."

Poll results released by Latino Decisions on Monday found that nationwide, Obama has seen a slight slip in poll numbers among Latino voters but held a wide margin lead over Romney. According to the results Latino support for Obama is at 67 percent and Latino support for Romney is at 23 percent.

"While Virginia isn't traditionally a state where Latino voters have held a lot of sway, with this year's extremely tight race in both the Presidential and Senate contests, and a rapidly growing number of Latino voters in the northern Virginia region, these voters are poised to play a decisive role in both races," Frank Sharry, executive director of America's Voice, said. 

"Despite Governor Romney's surge in national polls in recent weeks, his numbers with Latino voters are at a dismal 22 percent. For Virginia's Latino voters, two-thirds of whom report knowing an undocumented immigrant, this issue is personal, and Romney's far right position endorsing 'self-deportation' could end up losing him this battleground state," Sharry added.

The candidates will have the opportunity to appeal to voters at a national level twice more before the November 6 election. Tonight, the two candidates will participate in the second presidential debate held at Hofstra University in Hempstead, N.Y., which will cover foreign and domestic policies in a town hall-style debate. The final presidential debate will be held October 22 at Lynn University in Boca Raton, Fla.

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