Hispanic voters may influence 2012 election

Posted at: 10/17/2012 6:53 PM
By: Stuart Dyson, Eyewitness News 4

New research from University of New Mexico's political science department reveals more about how Hispanic voters - the largest and fastest-growing group of voters in New Mexico - may influence the outcome of the 2012 election and many elections to come.

UNM conducted the research for political opinion groups America's Voice and Latino Decisions, polling 400 Hispanic voters identified as likely to vote. It's a wide-ranging survey, showing that aside from the economy, immigration reform is the most important issue for Hispanic voters in New Mexico, ahead of education and health care.

"Most Hispanics in this particular state are not immigrants," said professor Gabe Sanchez. "They date back to, in the context of my own personal family, to the 1500s. Many folks say, why would they care about immigration? Well, these numbers tell a different story. Almost a third of the sampling is saying immigration is the most important thing on my mind when I'm entering the ballot box."

Another finding from the research shows that 70 percent of Latino voters want the state to continue issuing driver's licenses for illegal immigrants as long as stricter requirements are imposed. Twenty-one percent favor repealing the law.

"I would suggest that we are moving toward a co-mingling of interests here with regard to Latinos," said professor Christine Sierra. "It's about their quality of life, their future, their welfare."

When it comes to the race for president, 69 percent of the poll favor Obama, while 24 percent said they're voting for Romney.

The research explains New Mexico's increasing trend to vote Democratic in recent elections. The nation's highest percentage of Hispanic voters is here - by far - and they are overwhelmingly voting Democratic.