That Romney has a problem with Latino voters is well known. But the depth of this problem remains an open question. Can he match John McCain’s support — the Arizona senator won 31 percent of Latinos in 2008 — or is he stuck in the mid–20s, as is true in most recent surveys?
Latinos are an under-polled demographic, so the usual caveats apply, but a new analysis from Univision shows Romney with historically terrible support among Hispanic voters. Averaging the results of 10 surveys, beginning last fall, Univision found President Obama with 66.7 percent support among Latinos — almost identical to his 2008 performance — and Romney with 22.9 percent support. For comparison’s sake, here is how other Republican presidential candidates have performed with Latinos over the last 30 years:
- John McCain: 31 percent in 2008.
- George W. Bush: 44 percent in 2004, 35 percent in 2000.
- Bob Dole: 21 percent in 1996.
- George H.W. Bush: 25 percent in 1992, 30 percent in 1988.
- Ronald Reagan: 34 percent in 1984, 37 percent in 1980.
According to the most recent poll of Latino voters — from NBC News, the Wall Street Journal and Telemundo — if the election were held today, Romney would take 23 percent of the Latino vote, the smallest total for any Republican candidate since Dole.
A few takeaways. This only reemphasizes the extent to which the Republican primaries were awful for Romney’s reputation among Latinos. By taking anti-immigrant stances — including support for “self-deportation” — and attempting to flank his opponents from the right, Romney painted himself as utterly draconian on immigration. Save a repudiation of his previous stances, there’s not much Romney can do to recover ground on that front.
This also highlights the importance of Romney’s performance among white voters. His support among non-whites is so low that he needs a super-majority among white voters to win the election. Obama has lost considerable support among working-class whites, but — as evidenced by his leads in states like Virginia and Colorado — he has maintained his lead among college-educated whites. If Romney can’t break into that, or run up the score with working-class whites, his path to victory is difficult.
By contrast, Team Obama can breathe a little easier when it comes to the Latino vote. Turnout is still important — and as Univision points out, it’s impossible to gauge likely turnout at this point — but Romney’s low support gives Obama a little room to maneuver. What he might lose in static turnout, he gains in Latinos who don’t come out to vote for Romney. In a close election, that’s critical.