I got so much feedback on Twitter from presenting surprising polling results on how Hispanic voters in the United States view immigration-related issues that I thought it worth showing that the numbers I presented really don’t seem to be outliers.
The original data that was so unexpected came from a Kellogg Foundation survey of Latino adults conducted from mid-September to mid-October, shortly before both the mid-term elections and of course President Obama’s Executive Amnesty announcement. To recap, according to Kellogg, only 18 percent of its sample described “Immigration/Deportations” as the issue that “concerns you the most.” This issue did rank number two on a long list, but it was beaten out by “Jobs/Economy” (23 percent). The next concerns, in order of priority, were “Violence/Crime” (12 percent), “Education/Schools” (9 percent), and “Health care cost/quality” (7 percent).
Even more important, however, among Latino adults who are citizens and who therefore can actually vote, only 11 percent placed immigration issues at the top of their concerns list. And even among those adults in the United States illegally, immigration issues were the leading concern for only 32 percent.
Along with Gallup findings that, since May, the share of Americans overall classifying immigration as America’s “Most Important Problem” hasn’t topped 17 percent – and that in July, as the migrant children situation peaked – the Kellogg results powerfully undermine the President’s insistence that immigration issues are so pressing that he needed to take emergency action.
But even if you believe in the special importance of Hispanic opinion – perhaps because of these Americans’ growing political power – it’s crucial to understand that evidence for its ambivalence and/or complexity is abundant.
For example, a June survey by the Pew Research Center found that in 2012, only 34 percent of Hispanic voters tabbed immigration as an issue that’s “’extremely important’ to them personally.” Moreover, the numbers haven’t changed dramatically since 2004 (the earliest data presented). In addition, immigration significantly trailed education, employment and economic, and health care issues – all of which registered above 50 percent – on the importance scale.
In 2013, Pew asked registered Hispanic voters to name issues that are “extremely important” to the nation (a slightly different question). Only 32 percent said immigration – again, far behind the identification of economic and health care issues.
Pew released more such data just before the last mid-terms. They showed that two-thirds of Hispanic voters viewed the Congressional passage of “significant new immigration legislation” as “extremely important or very important.” That was up six percentage points since 2013.
At the same time, of the 68 percent of Hispanic voters that had heard anything at all about President Obama’s Executive Action plan, only 35 percent expressed either “disappointment” or “anger” with Mr. Obama’s delay of that decision. Twenty-six percent were either “very happy” or “pleased.”
Further, of all Hispanic adults in the country illegally, only 53 percent expressed negative feelings about the president’s delay. Twenty percent expressed positive views, and another 19 percent hadn’t heard about it.
Finally, more than half (54 percent) of all Hispanic registered voters say they would vote for an office seeker who disagrees with them on immigration issues if that candidate agreed with them on “most other issues.” More Hispanic registered Republicans (62 percent) took this position than Democrats (52 percent), but the majority figures for both indicate that this group is showing few signs of falling into a single-issue trap — and that both major parties will face big challenges in winning or maintaining its loyalties.