President Obama and the Democrats are losing ground with Hispanics, just a couple months after Obama delayed a planned executive action that would potentially legalize millions of illegal immigrants -- the vast majority of whom are Latinos.
Ipso facto, that delay is causing Hispanics to ditch the Democrats. Right?
Well, not exactly. A new Pew Hispanic Center survey shows, contrary to popular belief, that Hispanics are relatively evenly split on Obama's decision to delay the executive action until after the election. Among registered Hispanic voters, 35 percent are either "angry" or "disappointed" in Obama's delay -- i.e. unfavorable -- while 26 percent are either "pleased" or "very happy" -- i.e. favorable.
Of that 35 percent who are displeased, only 9 percent -- about one in 10 -- say they are "angry" about the whole thing. And here's the kicker: another 30 percent said they hadn't even heard about the delay.
That's not the stuff of huge electoral shifts. In fact, the 35-26 split is only a couple points outside the margin of error.
And when you look at the people who might be alienated by Obama's delay -- Democratic-leaning Hispanic voters -- the false narrative is even more apparent. These voters, whose unhappiness would most directly affect Democrats in the voting booth, are actually evenly split on Obama's delay, with 32 percent unhappy and 33 percent happy.
Are there probably a few more Hispanics who are turned off by Obama's delay than heartened by it? Sure; polling suggests Hispanics are very much in support of legalizing illegal immigrants. And maybe it leads a few folks to stay home come Tuesday (though few major Senate-race states feature large Hispanic populations). But no way does it fully -- or even mostly -- account for Obama's and the Democrats' declining fortunes among Hispanics.
No, that has been in the works for a long time now. Here's Hispanics' approval of Obama over time, compared to Obama's overall approval.
In fact, it has tracked pretty neatly with overall approval of Obama. Hispanics have stuck by the president a little more than the rest of the country (in late 2009 and before and after the 2012 election, for instance), but they've also dropped further in their support (in 2011). On the whole, though, their approval rating for Obama has been about 10 points higher than the entire U.S. population.
And while the above chart covers the period until just after the executive order delay announcement, the gap is pretty much intact today -- if on the small end. The Pew poll shows 49 percent of Hispanics approve of Obama, while 43 percent of registered voters do. And Gallup's most recent tracking poll shows the split at 49/41.
Given all of that, it's hard to isolate one supposed deal-breaker -- whether the broader failed effort to pass an immigration reform bill, increased deportations of illegal immigrants under Obama, or Obama's subsequent decision to delay an executive action on immigration -- as the cause a rift between Obama and Hispanics. And indeed, that rift is pretty much on-par with the rift between Obama and the entire American public.
Perhaps it's just inevitable that he would be about where he is with Hispanics, regardless of all the immigration stuff. After all, recent polls suggest other key elements of the so-called "Obama coalition" -- unmarried women and young people -- are similarly disenchanted. And none of them had a supposedly seminal moment to get upset about.
On the above chart, the biggest gap between Hispanics and the rest of the country was during and shortly after the 2012 election, when Obama was running against a rich guy named Romney and emphasizing economic fairness, including his successful effort to raise taxes on the wealthiest Americans. Polling regularly shows Hispanics care much more about economic issues than immigration.
It seems more likely that something like that had a real impact on Hispanics' views of him. This whole immigration thing is something of a secondary issue for Hispanics who already have legal status and the ability to vote.
And Obama's delaying action for a few months is being overblown.