Poll: Hispanic voters focused on economy over immigration

A new poll shows President Obama leading Mitt Romney by more than 40 percent among Hispanics, but the key demographic group focused more on healthcare and the economy than immigration policy.

Twelve percent of Hispanic registered voters surveyed in the new USA Today-Gallup poll released on Monday said “immigration policies” were the most important to them, behind 21 percent pegging healthcare, 19 percent saying unemployment and 17 percent economic growth overall.

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Further cementing the importance of economic issues to the fast-growing minority group, 16 percent of registered Hispanic voters said the “gap between rich and poor” was the most important issue, with 11 percent picking the deficit.

Among all Hispanics, 20 percent said immigration, with 20 percent saying unemployment and 20 percent picking healthcare. Seventeen percent said economic growth, with 11 percent concerned about income disparity and 7 percent focused on the deficit.

Overall, the new poll shows Obama continuing to hold his commanding lead over Romney among Hispanic voters.

Obama takes 66 percent to Romney’s 25, which is nearly identical to the president’s support among Hispanics in the 2008 election, when he took 67 percent to GOP nominee Sen. John McCain’s (Ariz.) 32.

Both campaigns have focused on outreach to Latino voters, who hold sway in several key battleground states.

The poll of 1,000 Hispanic voters, however, was conducted between April 16 and May 31 — before President Obama’s announcement that his administration would stop deporting some illegal immigrants who came to the country at a young age and meet certain requirements. 

That directive is wildly popular among Hispanics, with more than 80 percent saying they approve, according to an earlier USA Today-Gallup follow-up survey.

The administration’s move was painted by Republicans as a political ploy to boost Hispanic support ahead of November’s elections, and placed GOP lawmakers and nominee Mitt Romney on the defensive. Republicans were caught between undertaking efforts to grow their Hispanic support and placating groups within the conservative base that see Obama’s decision as a form of “amnesty” for illegal immigrants. 

Obama and Romney took turns addressing the National Association of Latino Elected Officials last week in the wake of the president’s surprising election-year immigration policy change.

Obama told Hispanic leaders they should take Romney “at his word” that he would veto the DREAM Act, which would create a route to permanent residency, and eventually citizenship, for some illegal immigrants brought to the United States as children. 

In his speech, Romney turned attention back to the economy, but also softened his stance on immigration, reversing course by saying he was now in favor of permanent residency for illegal immigrants who came to the United States as children and graduate from college, a key part of the DREAM Act.

Romney has called Obama’s directive on deportations a “temporary measure,” and while he hasn’t said if he would uphold the law if elected president, he pledged to install his own “long-term solution.”