POLITICS

Latino voters turning their backs on President Obama over lack of action on immigration

The president's decision to delay executive action on immigration has angered some Hispanic voters.

 

At the time of his November 2012 re-election, President Barack Obama had rock star approval ratings with Latino voters, but those numbers have dropped significantly as a key constituency experiences some frustration with his delay in taking unilateral action on immigration.

Gallup Poll figures from December 2012 showed that Obama's approval rating with Hispanics was 22 percentage points above the national average, 75 percent compared to 53 percent.

Now that the president has delayed taking executive action on immigration until after the midterm election on Nov. 4, his approval rating among Hispanic voters has dropped to just 10 points above the national average of 42 percent.

Last week, Obama tried to reassure Latinos that he shares their frustration over the delay. “If anybody wants to know where my heart is or whether I want to have this fight, let me put those questions to rest right now. I am not going to give up this fight until it gets done,” the president told the audience attending a Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute gala on Thursday.

Mike Gonzalez from the Heritage Foundation – author of the book, "A Race for the Future: How Conservatives Can Break the Liberal Monopoly on Hispanic-Americans" – says this has created an opportunity for conservatives. 

"As I wrote in my book, the president and progressives in general look at Hispanics just as expendable political pawns,” Gonzalez told Fox News in an interview. “They (conservatives) need to have a positive agenda on how they're going to improve the lives of Hispanics with the right policies.”

Those leading the immigration reform fight have tried to reassure skeptics and keep pressure on the White House. 

“If the president says he's going to do everything he can, you have two choices: you can believe him or not. I believe he's going to do everything he can," Representative Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) told reporters after a July 16, 2014, meeting at the White House.

The president is now promising executive action between election day and the end of the year.

Southern Methodist University Professor Cal Jillson says Democrats are betting that Latino voters won’t stray too far. "The White House and Democrats in general feel that they can get that Hispanic vote back in a higher turnout 2016 presidential election,” Jillson told Fox News. “So what they're trying to do now is they're willing to disappoint some Hispanics if that results in holding the Senate." 

Many Democratic politicians feared that if Obama had acted on immigration before the midterm election, it would have angered voters, possibly causing Democrats to lose some hotly contested Senate races in states like Alaska, Arkansas, and Louisiana. Republicans need a net gain of six seats to win back the majority in the Senate. 

“The White House was assuming that because those are red states, if you did a big immigration move ahead of the election, you might endanger those incumbents, lose control of the Senate and that would be worse than having a little bit of fall off in the Hispanic vote in 2014,” Jillson said.

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Mike Emanuel currently serves as chief congressional correspondent for FOX News Channel (FNC). He joined FNC in 1997 as a Los Angeles-based correspondent.