The Washington Post

Hispanics sour on Obama in 2013, but haven’t we seen this movie before?

President Obama’s popularity has slumped among almost every segment of the public since his reelection last year, but a Gallup analysis released Thursday finds Hispanic Americans have soured on him at a startling clip.

Obama’s job approval rating among Hispanics dropped from 75 percent last December to 52 percent last month, a 23-point tumble more than double the rate among whites or African Americans. The fastest growing demographic group backed Obama by 71 to 27 percent over Republican Mitt Romney in 2012, with Hispanics one of the few groups who backed Obama by a wider margin than in 2008.

But this is not the first time Hispanics have swung away from Obama. In 2011, Obama’s approval sank to a year-average 53 percent among Hispanics, almost exactly where he stands today. His approval rating grew steadily through the 2012 campaign and hit 70 percent on the eve of his reelection.

Indeed, Hispanics’ views toward Obama have shifted far more regularly than among whites or Hispanics. As the Gallup report’s author Jeffrey M. Jones explains, “Hispanics' approval ratings of Obama have shown the most variation of any group's ratings throughout his presidency.”

Gallup range in Obama approval by race

What explains Hispanics volatile attitudes toward Obama? One possibility is that in 2010 and 2011 Hispanics soured on Obama for some of the same reasons as other Americans -- including a weak economy and ugly debt ceiling battle -- but also disappointment with his handling of immigration issues, especially deportations of undocumented immigrants. In 2011, nearly six in 10 disapproved of his handling of deportations.

But in 2012, Republican primary candidates proposed controversial "self-deportation" as a solution to dealing with undocumented immigrants, and the Obama administration introduced a program allowing young undocumented immigrants to apply for temporary legal status. The campaign debates also focused on areas where Hispanics appear to agree more with Democrats -- including the size of government, how to create jobs and health care. These along with a natural boost after being reelected boosted Obama's standing among Hispanics in 2012.

The latest souring could be the fallback from that high, with a continually weak economy, poor implementation of the health-care law and stagnated immigration reform all weighing Obama's ratings down. The latest sharp shift away from among Hispanics should not be written off. In the short term, skepticism of the president will hobble Obama's efforts to rally Hispanic support for Democratic candidates in 2014. In the longer term, it demonstrates Democrats have yet to secure a durable loyalty among Hispanic Americans, opening the door for Republicans to offer a better option.

Peyton M. Craighill contributed to this report.

Scott Clement is a survey research analyst for The Washington Post. Scott specializes in public opinion about politics, election campaigns and public policy.



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Sean Sullivan · December 6, 2013

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