Sun, Feb. 23

Democrats target Latino vote

PHOENIX -- Democrats could get a crucial leg-up from Latinos -- if they can motivate them to vote.

A new national study Tuesday by Pew Hispanic Center finds Latinos are almost three times as likely to be registered as or call themselves Democrats as Republicans. And, by a margin of eight to one, they believe Democrats have more concern for Hispanic issues than that other party.

But there's only one problem: They also are less likely to make it to the polls as the public at large.

Mark Lopez, the organization's associate director, said only a third of Latinos questioned said they have given this year's election "quite a lot' of thought. A separate survey done by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press put that figure for the population at large at 50 percent.

And when asked if they definitely intend to vote this year, the response is 70 percent from people overall -- and just 51 percent for registered Hispanics.

The Pew study is not broken down by state. But pollster Earl de Berge of the Phoenix-based Behavior Research Center said studies he has done show the same pattern exists in Arizona.

"Our data has shown over the years that there's somewhere between a 12 to 15 point lower level of turnout among Latinos who are eligible to vote and are registered to vote,' de Berge said. He said that has been "a very consistent pattern' over a long time.

That's not to say that Hispanics cannot be motivated to go to the polls.

According to de Berge, there have been races in California "when they've been activated by major candidates running for office ... or where there have been some hostile measures on the ballot.'

There are no such measures on this year's Arizona ballot.

The closest is Proposition 107, which would outlaw affirmative action programs. But de Berge said he has seen no groundswell of support or opposition on either side of that measure.

What that leaves, he said, is whether enactment of SB 1070, the state's tough new law aimed at illegal immigrants, will activate the Hispanic community.

"We don't see any strong evidence of that,' he said.

The Pew survey of 1,375 Latinos 18 and older, including 618 registered voters, appears to bear that out at a national level.

It found that the top issue for those registered to vote is education, followed by jobs and the health care. Immigration ranked fifth, behind the federal budget deficit.

But Pew also found that those Latino registered voters who said they had talked to someone about immigration issues are more likely to go to the polls than those who did not.

In Arizona, de Berge said that still will require a major push by Democrats, who would benefit by higher Latino turnout, to make SB 1070 an issue. That, he said, has not happened.

There was an initial burst of interest after Brewer signed the measure in April. But some of the steam has gone out of the issue since a federal judge in July blocked key provisions of the law from taking effect.

The Pew survey shows that Democrats would find a responsive audience if they can gain the attention of Latinos.

Of those registered voters, 47 percent believe that Democrats have more concern for Hispanics than Republicans, with just 6 percent viewing the issue the other way. But everyone else questioned said they basically see no difference.

The nationwide poll did find some differences in attitudes within the Latino community.

For example, Hispanics whose dominant language is English are somewhat more likely to lean Republican, though they still make up just 33 percent of that group, compared with 55 percent who associate themselves as Democrats. At the other extreme, Latinos who are Spanish dominant are 64-19 Democrat over Republican.

The latest statewide figures show about 3.1 million people registered, about 64 percent of those 18 and older.

Lopez estimated that Hispanics make up only about one out of every five registered voters in Arizona.

Education -- 58%

Jobs -- 54%

Health care -- 51%

Federal budget deficit -- 35%

Immigration -- 31%

Environment -- 29%

War in Afghanistan -- 27%

-- Source: Pew Hispanic Center

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