WASHINGTON – Hispanics are increasingly pessimistic about their situation in the U.S. and angry about the aggressive immigration enforcement policies of the Bush administration, findings that could have implications for the presidential election, according to a new survey.
Nearly 10 percent of Hispanics said they had been stopped by police or other authorities asking about their immigration status in the past year, including 8 percent of native-born Hispanics.
Nearly 15 percent said it has been hard to find or keep a job because they are Hispanic, and 10 percent said the same thing about finding or keeping housing. And 57 percent of Hispanics worry that they themselves, a friend or family member will be deported, up from 53 percent last year.
Half of those surveyed said the situation for Hispanics is worse now than a year ago. In a similar survey last year, only one-third took that view.
“There is a significant deterioration in the mood of Hispanics,” said Susan Minushkin, deputy director of the Pew Hispanic Center, a nonpartisan research group.
Unhappiness among Hispanics could have important consequences for the presidential election, particularly for Republican John McCain, who is striving in ads and speeches to bolster an immigrant-friendly image.
The Pew survey found that 66 percent of Hispanic registered voters back Obama, while 23 percent support McCain. Those levels mark a swing back to traditional levels of Hispanic support for Democratic presidential candidates after a groundswell of support for President Bush in 2004.
Bush drew 40 percent of Hispanic voters in 2004, an unprecedented showing for a Republican candidate. Democratic candidates usually pull more than 60 percent of the Hispanic vote.
Hispanic voters make up 8 percent of the electorate, but they make up higher percentages in some key swing states, said Mark Hugo Lopez, associate director of the Pew Hispanic Institute. Hispanics will make up 35 percent of voters in New Mexico, 14 percent of voters in Florida, and 11 percent to 12 percent of voters in Nevada and Colorado, Lopez said.
Pew researchers found that for these voters, immigration is playing a more important role. Thirty-four percent of Hispanics said immigration was extremely important to them personally in this presidential campaign, up from 28 percent who said this in 2004.
Almost half of all Hispanics surveyed said the Democratic Party had more concern for immigrants, while 7 percent said this was true of the Republican Party.
And when Pew researchers asked Hispanic registered voters which candidate was better for immigrants, 50 percent chose Obama, while only 12 percent opted for McCain.
McCain has a record of working for immigration reform in the Senate, writing a 2006 bill with Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., that would have given most illegal immigrants a path to citizenship.