Obama leads Romney by 68 percent to 23 percent and Perry by 69 percent to 23 percent among Hispanic voters, with a margin of error of plus or minus 5.2 percentage points for the sample.
The president’s strong position with Latino voters comes even as Hispanic adults overall express disapproval with the way his administration is handling deportations of illegal immigrants, by 59 percent to 27 percent. (The margin of error among adults is plus or minus 3.6 percentage points.)
The United States has deported more than 1 million illegal immigrants under Obama, removing an average of nearly 400,000 per year — a record rate that has drawn criticism from immigrant advocates who charge that the policy is tearing apart families and punishing harmless workers. Administration officials have said they are targeting criminals for deportation.
Obama’s job approval rating has dropped among Hispanic voters by nine percentage points since last year, the survey found, dipping to 54 percent — in part because of a 15-point drop among Hispanic Democrats. His job approval among voters overall stood at 49 percent in a Washington Post-ABC News poll this month, meaning the president remains more popular among Hispanics than with the broader electorate.
“Many Latinos are aware that deportations are up, and among them the president’s approval rating is lower,” said Mark H. Lopez, associate director of the Pew Hispanic Center. “However, even among them, the president wins in head-to-heads against Romney and Perry.”
The findings suggest major challenges ahead for Republican strategists, many of whom believe the party cannot win the White House unless it slices into Obama’s support among Hispanics.
In the latest available data from Gallup, Obama’s numbers among Hispanics have recovered alongside a rise among the broader public. Fully 60 percent of all Hispanic adults interviewed by Gallup in late December said they approved of Obama’s overall job performance, a high in polls back to May.
The support level for Romney and Perry lags behind the 31 percent share won by party nominee John McCain in 2008. Obama won 67 percent of Hispanics that year.
At the time, many Republican strategists said failing to improve that number in the future could doom Republican presidential contenders in battleground states with fast-growing Hispanic populations, such as Colorado and Florida. They set a 2012 goal of winning 40 percent, about the same level of support among Hispanics won by President George W. Bush in his 2004 reelection victory.