Sixty-four percent of likely voters surveyed after Obama’s June 15 announcement said they agreed with the policy, while 30 percent said they disagreed. Independents backed the decision by better than a two-to-one margin.
The results underscore the challenge facing Mitt Romney and Republicans as they try to woo Hispanic voters, who are the nation’s largest ethnic minority and made up 9 percent of the 2008 electorate, according to a Pew Hispanic Center analysis of exit polls. Obama won the Hispanic vote 67 to 31 percent over Republican John McCain in 2008, according to exit polls.
Note that even McCain’s very moderate views on immigration were only able to net him 31 percent of the Hispanic vote, compared to Obama’s 67 percent. With that in mind, Romney’s muted response to Obama’s announcement is smart. He isn’t doing anything to specifically turn voters away from him on immigration, but he’s also keeping his focus on the economy and unemployment, issues that have had an outsized impact on the Hispanic community. Obama’s hope at this point is to knock Romney off message and shift attention to social issues that distract from his economic record.
But will his immigration announcement translate into votes? Nate Silver doesn’t see it as a game-changer:
The danger for Democrats was that these voters, unenthusiastic about both choices, might not have turned out to vote at all. Historically, Hispanics have not been as likely to register to vote as other groups, in part a reflection of the fact that a fair number of them are not United States citizens. However, voting participation has been relatively low, even among those Hispanics who were registered to vote.
Mr. Obama’s decision could motivate some additional turnout among these voters. If, for instance, Hispanic turnout increases by 5 percent, and 5 percent of Hispanics who might otherwise have voted for Mr. Romney now vote for Mr. Obama instead, it would swing a net of about 1 percentage point in support to Mr. Obama. That is hardly a game-changer, but it could matter in an election that could be very close.
Obama’s illegal immigration move, like his gay marriage decision, was made out of necessity. If Marco Rubio had been able to get the votes on his DREAM Act legislation, it would have been a significant embarrassment for Obama, who has paid lip service to immigration reform for years but never made a serious effort to follow through.
Like the president’s gay marriage decision, the deportation rule won’t hold the media attention for long. With Romney’s subdued response on the topic, it will soon run out of oxygen, and the economic news will move back to the top of the news cycle.