Among the most overlooked stories this political season was the major impact of Latino voters in Barack Obama’s red state victories. While Latinos’ 67% support for Obama has gotten some attention, the media has largely overlooked the fact that Latino immigrants backed Obama by a 78% margin, and their support was critical in the Democrat’s narrow victories in Indiana, North Carolina and Virginia. The Immigrant Policy Center
has released a new analysis of Latino immigrant voting, which deserves the widest possible attention for revealing the importance of the immigration issue in key swing states. The Center’s analysis confirms that comprehensive immigration reform must be a priority for President Obama’s first year in office, and that Latino immigrants are ready to push the issue.
The Immigrant Policy Center released the following analysis this week:
Latinos weren’t the only group that flexed its muscles this past Election Day. New Americans — naturalized citizens and the U.S.-born children of immigrants who were born during the current era of immigration that began in 1965—make up another important demographic group that demonstrated its ability to swing an election. While complete data on New Americans is not yet available, exit polling among Latinos and Latino immigrants tell two important stories.
First, Latino immigrants voted for Obama at a higher margin than native-born Latinos. While Obama made an impressive gain among native-born Latino voters, capturing 67% of the Latino vote compared to Kerry’s 56% in 2004, the records were smashed with Latino immigrant support coming in at a whopping 78%. What charged the immigrant vote? Immigration.
Meanwhile, these New American Latino voters made a difference in districts we’ve never detected their presence in before. In unprecedented fashion, they provided the critical, extra push for Obama in North Carolina and Indiana, without which victory would have been impossible in those states; and played a significant role in winning Virginia. These findings suggest that immigrants are having a tsunami impact beyond the Sunshine and Rocky Mountain states and throughout the country.
A preliminary analysis conducted for the Immigration Policy Center (IPC) by Rob Paral and Associates explores the electoral power that was exhibited on Election Day by Latino New Americans and shows:
Indiana and North Carolina Latino New American Voters Helped Push Obama to Victory.
* In North Carolina, Obama won by approximately 14,000 votes and received the votes of nearly 26,000 more Latino New Americans than McCain—nearly double the margin of victory.
* In Indiana, Obama won by roughly 26,000 votes, and received the votes of nearly 24,000 more Latino New Americans than John McCain. The additional votes that Obama received from Latino New Americans who chose him over McCain equals more than 90% of his margin of victory.
Virginia’s Latino New American Voters Amounted to a Fifth of Obama’s Margin of Victory.
* In Virginia, Obama won by roughly 156,000 votes, and received the votes of approximately 35,000 more Latino New Americans than McCain. The number of additional votes that Obama received from Latino New Americans who chose him over McCain was equal to one-fifth (more than 20%) of his margin of victory.
Immigrants Voted for Obama Largely Due to Their Concerns About Immigration.
Interviews conducted by Bendixen & Associates among Latino immigrant voters just before the election found that “a rise in discrimination against Hispanics because of the tone of the immigration debate contributed to the rejection of the Republican nominee for President.”
Based on this voter analysis, the Immigrant Policy Center concludes “President-elect Barack Obama and the 111th Congress cannot afford to disregard the needs and future of the fastest growing part of the American electorate without facing a backlash in 2012. These stunning election results represent a clear mandate to work towards enacting reform that restores the rule of law, renews confidence in America’s immigration system and realistically tackles illegal immigration.”
In assessing the prospects for comprehensive immigration reform, two points are increasingly clear.
First, it will be far easier for Congress to enact a reform measure in 2009 than in 2010. Legalization advocates recognize that the economic crisis, health care reform, and the drive for a new energy policy will take precedence, but there is a place for immigration reform by next fall.
Second, success requires the entire immigrant rights movement to mobilize its base. Not all House and Senate Democrats support legalization. I think Nancy Pelosi will make sure that the measure passes the House, but winning majority support in the Senate (and avoiding a filibuster) will require pressure campaigns targeting swing politicians.
To read more about the New American Electorate click here.
Randy Shaw is the Editor of Beyond Chron and the author of the newly released, Beyond the Fields: Cesar Chavez, the UFW and the Struggle for Justice in the 21st Century (University of California Press)