Poll: Republicans struggling with Latino voters as Obama maintains popularity

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Of the Republican primary field, Latino voters favored Mitt Romney, but by a small margin. The former Massachusetts governor earned 15 percent of respondents' support, versus 14 percent for Rick Perry, who some Republicans have blasted as too liberal on immigration issues, including support for allowing children of illegal immigrants to take advantage of in-state college tuition credits. Herman Cain, who famously joked that he wanted to build an electrified fence on the Mexican border, rounds out the top three with 12 percent of Latino voters.

But those numbers may not mean much to the Republican candidates, as only 35 percent of respondents said they plan to vote in the GOP primary. Coupled with the response of 42 percent of Latinos who believe the Republican Party doesn't care too much about reaching out to Hispanics - and 30 percent who describe Republicans as hostile to their community - the GOP could continue to struggle at attracting Latino votes.

Interestingly, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), the man many Republicans believe is the inevitable choice for vice president - and their inroads into the Latino community - may not be as helpful as conventional wisdom prescribes.

A majority of Latinos - 57 percent - have no opinion or have never heard of Rubio, while only 26 percent say that they view the Florida senator favorably.

The Latino vote is expected to be increasingly influential in the 2012 election, with the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials saying that 12.2 million are expected to vote next year - nearly double the numbers of 2008. And Latinos seem excited to exercise their greater influence - 81 percent describe themselves as enthusiastic about voting  next year.

Still, the president needs has work to do to shore up support. A plurality of Latino voters said they were more enthusiastic about voting in 2008, much of which can be attributed to 53 percent of voters who said they were less excited about voting for Obama.