Majority of Hispanics Surveyed Disapprove of Bush's Handling of Economy and Iraq War
By Richard Morin and Dan Balz
Washington Post Staff Writers
Thursday, July 22, 2004; Page A01
Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) holds a strong lead over President Bush among the nation's Hispanic voters, with a majority rejecting the president's handling of the economy and the war in Iraq, according to a survey by The Washington Post, Univision and the Tomas Rivera Policy Institute.
At a time when Bush and Kerry are running about even among all registered voters, Kerry enjoys a 2 to 1 advantage over Bush among Latino registered voters. Hispanics give Bush lower approval ratings than the overall population does, and the poll shows that the bulk of the Latino community continues to identify with the Democratic Party.
John F. Kerry greets New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson at the National Hispanic Cultural Center.
(Jake Schoellkopf -- AP)
The findings suggest that, at this point in the campaign, Bush is falling short of his goal of notably improving on the 35 percent share of the Hispanic vote he received four years ago, although his advisers said they believe he is still on track to do so. Kerry advisers, in contrast, said they are determined to keep Bush from winning as much of the Hispanic vote as he did in 2000.
Bush enjoyed solid Latino backing as governor of Texas, particularly in his 1998 reelection campaign. In the past four years, his political advisers and the Republican National Committee have worked assiduously to court the Hispanic community, which they see as a key not only to the president's reelection this fall but also to the long-term strength of the Republican Party.
There were some signs in the poll that suggest the GOP has begun to make additional inroads among Hispanic voters, but opposition to Bush's policies appears to be an obstacle to more significant growth. A third of all Latino Republicans say they were once Democrats, while few Republicans have switched allegiance. And an increasing share of wealthier Hispanics identify with the GOP than in the past.
Competition for Hispanic voters remains fierce. Latinos now outnumber blacks, rank as the fastest-growing minority group in the country and are less solidly attached to the Democratic Party than are blacks. The 2000 census counted more than 35 million Hispanics in the United States, a 50 percent increase in one decade.
Three-quarters of all Latinos live in high-growth western and southern states, and their political influence has grown with their numbers. Although their clout has been muted by low rates of turnout, the number of Hispanics who voted in 2000 represented a 20 percent increase over 1996 and they accounted for about 5 percent of the overall electorate.
The survey of 1,605 Latino registered voters was sponsored by The Post, the Univision Spanish-language television network and the Tomas Rivera Policy Institute (TRPI), an independent think tank affiliated with the University of Southern California.
Hispanic voters in the 11 states with the largest Latino electorates were interviewed by telephone July 6-16. Together, these states are home to nearly nine out of 10 Hispanic voters living in the United States. They include the key battlegrounds of Florida, New Mexico and Arizona, where Latino voters may play a decisive role this fall, as well as states such as Texas and California, which have significant Hispanic populations but are not considered competitive.
As with voters nationally, pocketbook issues and national security lead the list of Latino concerns this election year, the survey found. A third -- 33 percent -- rated the economy as their top voting issue. Unlike among voters nationally, education came in second among Latinos (18 percent), surpassing terrorism (15 percent) and the war in Iraq (13 percent). Nationally, slightly fewer voters name the economy (28 percent) as their top voting issue while slightly more say the war in Iraq (20 percent) or terrorism (19 percent) is most important to them. About one in 10 (12 percent) named education.
Latino voters who were surveyed were sharply critical of the war in Iraq. More than six in 10 -- 63 percent -- said the war was not worth fighting, a view shared by slightly more than half of all voters nationally. Fewer than a third of all Latinos and fewer than half of all voters believe the war justified its costs.
Latinos also are more pessimistic about the war on terrorism than the overall population is, with 37 percent saying the United States is winning and 40 percent saying it is losing.
The survey found that Kerry claimed support from 60 percent of all Latino registered voters in the 11 states surveyed while Bush had 30 percent. Two percent supported Ralph Nader, an independent, and 8 percent were undecided. Among all voters nationally, Bush and Kerry were tied in the most recent Post survey, with each receiving 46 percent support.
Matthew Dowd, chief strategist for the Bush-Cheney campaign, said other polls of the overall population show Bush doing far better among Hispanics, including two putting his support around 40 percent. Those surveys included far fewer respondents than in the Post-Univision-TRPI poll. "We got 35 percent in 2000," he said. "If [the election] was held today, we'd get somewhere between 40 and 42 percent."