Poll: Majority of Hispanics identify as political independents

A new poll finds a majority of Hispanics identifying as independents but Republicans still facing challenges in winning these voters over in the 2012 election.

Fifty-one percent of Hispanics describe themselves as political independents, according to a new USA Today/Gallup poll. Thirty-two percent identify as Democrats, 11 percent as Republicans.

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However, when those self-described independents are probed for party leanings, twice as many affiliate with Democrats than Republicans, suggesting that GOP candidates have a long road to winning over the key demographic. Fifty-two percent of Hispanics say they are Democrats or Democratic-leaning independents to 23 percent who say they are Republican or GOP-leaning. 

Democrats also hold a clear edge among Hispanic registered voters, with 45 percent identifying as Democrats, 36 percent independents and 16 as Republicans.

Among immigrants, the tendency to identify as independent is even higher. Sixty percent of Hispanic immigrants peg themselves as independents, compared with 44 percent of first-generation Hispanics and 43 percent of those second-generation or higher.

But the poll finds a bright spot for Republicans: Each succeeding generation of Hispanics is more likely to identify as Republican than the prior one. 

Among immigrants, 6 percent identify as Republicans, with 15 percent among first-generation Hispanics born in the United States and 20 percent among the second generation or higher. 

Hispanics, who hold sway in many key battleground states, are a focus for both President Obama and GOP candidate Mitt Romney’s campaigns.

But despite Republican National Committee outreach efforts, polls consistently show Obama with a large edge among the group.

An  NBC News/Wall Street Journal/Telemundo poll released last week showed Obama opening up a 40-point lead over Romney among Hispanics, helped in part by the administration’s move to block deportations for many younger illegal immigrants. The poll found Obama with 66 percent support to Romney’s 26. 

But polls also show Hispanic voters more concerned with the economy than immigration policy. Another poll released last week showed Hispanic registered voters slotting immigration policy behind economic issues and healthcare in importance. 

The Gallup/USA Today poll was conducted from April 16 to May 31 and has a 3 percent margin of error.

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