Fresh numbers from the Pew Hispanic Center this morning show that Latino voters are breaking for Obama in a big way. They now favor the presumptive Democratic nominee over McCain by a three-to-one margin. During the Democratic primaries, Obama's opponent Hillary Clinton enjoyed broad support from Latinos, fueling speculation that Hispanics were reluctant to vote for an African American candidate. Today's Pew data seems to debunk that theory.
32% of respondents said being black would help Obama, while only 11% said it would hurt. And 53% said it would make no difference. In contrast, when asked about the role of McCain's race, 24% said that being white would hurt him among Latino voters, while only 11% said it would help. The majority (58%) said it would have no bearing.
Obama also takes the lead on favorability: 76% rated him positively, compared to 44% for McCain. And among those Latinos who said they initially backed Clinton, three-quarters of them have now thrown their support behind Obama, while only 8% say they will now vote for McCain.
The survey also reveals a few trends about voter participation that are worth keeping an eye on in the coming months. Pew's findings, which are based on state exit polls from the Democratic primaries, indicate that Latinos made up a greater percentage of voters in several states compared to past elections — most notably in California and Texas. And among the registered Latino voters who were polled, 17% said they were voting for the first time.
For Latinos, pocketbook and family issues are top priorities. Respondents listed education (93%), cost of living (92%), jobs (91%), and healthcare (90%) as most important. Interestingly, the Iraq War (75%) and immigration (75%) trailed the pack.
This new data bodes well for the Democrats, especially in states like Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, and Florida where the fight for Latino votes is likely to be fierce. And with 65% of Latino voters now identifying with the Democratic Party — the largest number in a decade according to Pew — Obama appears to be in the driver's seat. But, as always, the key to success in November is turnout, turnout, turnout.