Latinos are paying closer attention to the 2016 election than they were to the 2012 race and they are linking candidates' support for immigration reform to their economic opportunity, a Latino Decisions poll for the National Council of La Raza (NCLR) finds.
The poll of registered Latino voters released Thursday found that when asked if they were more or less interested in this election than in 2012, 43 percent of those polled said they are more interested and 19 percent said they are less interested.
Although 38 percent said their interest was about the same, NCLR vice president Erik Rodriguez said it is significant that 2 out of 5 Latinos said they are watching more closely than when President Barack Obama was up for re-election.
Sylvia Manzano, a principal at Latino Decisions, said the share saying they are more interested was 9 points more than the Latinos who said in 2012 they were more interested than in the previous election.
Manzano said the poll also showed that Latinos are not strongly or overwhelmingly identity voters because 55 percent said they would vote for a candidate that shared their view on issues, positions and priorities, while 28 percent said they'd vote for a Democrat, 9 percent said they'd vote for a Republican and 4 percent for a Latino candidate.
"This is a very significant time for this community," Rodriguez said.
"It's a time when we know that Latinos are beginning to pay a lot more attention to the presidential race and the race in their states - they are focused on the economy and jobs and what's happening to them financially." Rodriguez said the stakes are high heading into a transformational election and voters are looking at concrete policy proposals out there.
The poll found that Latino voters also are making a connection between immigration reform and economic well-being. The two issues tied when those polled were asked to name the top two issues important to them.
The poll found 54 percent said jobs and economic opportunities would get better for the Latino community if a candidate who strongly supports immigration reform is elected president. Just 12 percent said they would get worse and 30 percent said they'd stay about the same.
An almost equal number said the economy would get worse if a candidate who strongly opposed immigration reform was elected president.
This view cut across education levels, whether the person polled spoke in English or Spanish, or whether they were U.S. born or not, Manzano said.
"It's not just immigrants who think that the prospects of the community economically hinge on - or are related to - a candidate's view on immigration reform," Manzano said.
In addition, the poll reinforces what was seen at the NCLR conference this past summer, that the economic message resonates with the community, Rodriguez said.
The community is split on whether the economy is heading in the right direction or getting worse. Fifty-five percent said at least one time in a month they had experienced worries that they would not have enough money to pay all their bills.
But the poll finds that while much of the conversation around the economy and jobs - particularly in regard to Latinos - has been on raising the minimum wage and the problem of stagnant wages, there "is an understanding in the community of the importance of tax policy," Rodriguez said.
According to the poll, 91 percent believe it is very important or somewhat important for Congress to support tax credits for working families.
In addition, 71 percent said they were less likely to vote for a candidate who supports taking away tax credits from non-citizen Latinos with U.S.-citizen children.
"We know that policy makers, candidates have an opportunity to win Latino support with a concrete policy agenda and issues that are much more specific around economic and job issues, and that includes taxes," Rodriguez said.
The Latino Decisions survey of 1,157 Latinos was conducted Nov. 4-14 by mobile phone, landline and online in English and in Spanish. The margin of error is plus or minus 2.9 percentage points.