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Latino support for Democrats remains strong despite lack of immigration reform

Republicans may have won the House, but immigrant advocacy groups are quick to point out that the party was fairly unpopular among Latinos, who helped Democrats win in major races in California, Colorado and Nevada. The Pew Hispanic Center released a report last night on Latino voting in the 2010 elections, based on exit poll data. The numbers were slightly lower than a Latino Decisions poll of Latino voters* — Pew found that 64 percent of Latinos chose Democratic candidates, versus 78 percent according to the Latino Decisions poll — but still pointed to a strong preference for Democrats among the fastest-growing minority group.

The exit poll data point to a continued trend of Latino support for Democrats, which is interesting given concerns that pro-immigration reform Latinos — the majority of Latino voters — might stay home to push back against Democrats who failed to address the issue. In Arizona, about 71 percent of Latino voters preferred the Democratic candidate, versus 56 percent who preferred Obama in 2008. This can perhaps be attributed to the unpopularity among Latinos of Arizona’s SB 1070 immigration law, which Republican Gov. Jan Brewer signed into law this spring.

Other states saw slight dips in support for Democratic candidates from the high levels of support for Obama, but still mostly voted for Democrats. In California, the state with the largest Latino population in absolute terms, 64 percent of Latino voters picked Democrat Jerry Brown for governor over Republican Meg Whitman. Preferences for Senate were similar: 65 percent of Latinos preferred Democrat Barbara Boxer to Republican Carly Fiorina. In 2008, 74 percent of Latinos in California voted for Obama.

The only major exception in the Pew poll results was Florida, where Republican Marco Rubio captured 55 percent of the Latino vote, according to exit polls. As I mentioned yesterday, though, Rubio had high levels of support from fellow Cuban-Americans, who tend to vote Republican. The Latino Decisions poll found non-Cuban Latinos in Florida voted for the Democratic candidate, Kendrick Meek.

*One note on polling: According to Latino Decisions’ Gary Segura, a Stanford political science professor, exit poll data often under-represent minorities because exit polls tend to skip precincts that always go red or blue. Segura said minorities who live in white-dominated areas, who could be more conservative than average, tend to be over-represented in exit poll data. The Pew Hispanic Center data is based on exit polls, while Latino Decisions polled Latino registered voters directly the night before the election.

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