U.S. President Barack Obama speaks during a campaign rally at Cornell College in Mt Vernon, Iowa, October 17, 2012. Obama is campaigning in Iowa and Ohio on Wednesday following the second presidential debate against Mitt Romney on October 16. (Photo : Reuters)
A new report released by Latino Decisions revealed that New Mexico Latino voters overwhelmingly support President Barack Obama over Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney. The poll, conducted by Latino Decisions for America's Voice, also found that immigration is among the top priorities for Latinos in the state.
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According to the polls, 69 percent of New Mexico Latinos said they expect to vote for Obama, while 24 percent expected to vote for Romney. Seven percent of Latino voters in New Mexico were undecided. The Latino vote could prove decisive in the state, where 40 percent of the electorate consists of Latino voters.
The Latino Decision polls found that immigration ranks as one of the top priorities for Latinos in New Mexico. According to the results, 52 percent of Latino voters said that immigration was "the most important issue" or "one of the most important issues" of this year's election.
Gabriel Sanchez, associate professor at the University of New Mexico and Director of Research for Latino Decisions, explained, "One of the key findings in this poll was the importance Hispanic voters in New Mexico placed on immigration, with this policy coming in only second to the economy as the most important issue that Latino voters want addressed."
"We also found that nearly 60 percent of Latinos in the state of New Mexico know someone who is undocumented, and nearly half know someone who is eligible for the DREAM Act if passed," Sanchez added. "This to me implies that immigration has become personal to Latinos, which might explain the salience of the policy area among Latino voters."
The report also revealed that 30 percent of New Mexico Latinos listed immigration as the most important issue affecting the Latino community that the president and Congress should address. Forty-seven percent of Latino voters, however, listed the economy, jobs and unemployment as the most important issue.
"Today's polling is crystal clear: immigration matters to Latino voters here in New Mexico," Christine Sierra, professor at the University of New Mexico and Director of Southwest Hispanic Research Institute said. "Policymakers at both the state and national level should take note-when it comes to immigration policy, Latino voters are watching."
According to the poll, 58 percent of New Mexico Latinos know an undocumented person and 47 percent know someone who would be eligible for the DREAM Act. The DREAM Act, if passed, would grant provisional permanent residency to certain undocumented immigrants who meet strict education or military service requirements.
Although the DREAM Act has not passed, President Obama did institute the deferred action policy, which grants young undocumented immigrants brought into the U.S. before the age of 16 a two-year work permit if they meet certain education or military service requirements.
The poll found that 46 percent of New Mexico Latinos said they were "more enthusiastic" about voting for Obama since learning about his deferred action policy; seven percent of Latino voters said they were "less enthusiastic."
On the other hand, 8 percent of New Mexico Latinos said they were "more enthusiastic" about voting for Romney after learning that he would stop approving applications from Obama's deferred action policy; forty-six percent said they were "less enthusiastic."
"Mitt Romney held onto an extreme anti-immigrant position throughout the primary, advocating the self-deportation of 11 million undocumented immigrants, and now he has found himself 45 points behind with Latino voters and unable to compete in the state of New Mexico. There is certainly a correlation," Patty Kupfer, Managing Director of America's Voice, said.
New Mexico immigrants are also largely enthusiastic about voting this year, with 64 percent saying they are "very enthusiastic" about voting in this election and 59 percent saying they are "more enthusiastic" about voting in 2012 than they were in 2008.