But going into the Oct. 3 debate, Obama’s support among Latino voters — a critical segment in several swing states — showed a commanding 3-1 edge over the Republican presidential nominee, according to a Pew Hispanic Center poll released Thursday.
It’s unlikely the debate has hurt that advantage. “Support for the president has remained strong throughout” the 2012 campaign, said Mark Hugo Lopez, the center’s associate director, and that support hasn’t budged much in the last year.
The poll of 903 registered voters, conducted from Sept. 7 to Oct. 4, has Obama leading Romney 69 to 21. Depending on how the remaining nine percent — who were undecided or refused to respond — break, Obama’s Latino vote could reach the mid-70s — substantially higher than his 67 percent Latino support in the 2008 election.
Some 23.7 million Hispanics are eligible to vote, the survey noted, an increase of more than 4 million in the last four years, making them 11 percent of the total eligible electorate.
But Latino turnout at the polls generally lags that of other groups, the report said, and only 77 percent said they were “absolutely certain” to vote this time, compared with 89 percent of all registered voters in a separate Pew Research Center nationwide survey taken at the same time.
As a result, there may be “more Latino votes in this election,” Lopez said, but their overall percentage of the electorate may not increase substantially.
Obama leads 72-22 among Latino registered voters who say they are “absolutely certain” to vote.
The Pew poll also found that:
*Despite the controversy over new photo ID laws in 11 states, some 95 percent of Latino registered voters in those states said they were confident they had the identification they needed to vote. The poll found 71 percent of Latinos favor photo ID laws, compared with 77 percent of the general public.
*Obama’s “Dream Act” executive order, which allows Hispanics who came here as children to remain in the country, was supported by 86 percent of Latino registered voters, and 26 percent of Latino adults say they know someone who has applied to stay under the new program.
*Half or more of Latino registered voters said education (55 percent), jobs and the economy (54 percent) and health care (50 percent) were “extremely important,” while one-third or more of those voters ranked the deficit (36 percent) immigration (34 percent) and taxes (33 percent) as extremely important. (Excluding Cubans, who can easily obtain residency status, and Puerto Ricans, who are citizens, the percentage that considers immigration “extremely important” rises to 37 percent.)