GOP Hopefuls Losing Ground to Obama Among Latinos, Poll Says

Despite growing disappointment in his handling of immigration issues, Latino voters favor President Barack Obama by six-to-one over any of the Republican presidential hopefuls, showed a Fox News Latino poll conducted under the direction of Latin Insights and released Monday.

The national poll of likely Latino voters indicated that 73 percent of them approved of Obama’s performance in office, with over half those questioned looking favorably upon his handling of the healthcare debate and the economy, at 66 percent and 58 percent respectively.

Released on the eve of the Super Tuesday primaries in the race for the GOP nomination, the Fox News Latino poll shows former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney with 35 percent of Latino voter support, to Texas Rep. Ron Paul's 13 percent, former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich's 12 percent, and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum's 9 percent.

But the poll shows that the overwhelming choice among likely Latino voters is President Obama. In head-to-head match-ups none of the GOP candidates would garner more than 14 percent of the Latino vote come November, the poll said.

"This is what we're seeing across the country," said Gabriela Domenzain, Obama campaign spokesperson. "The more Latinos learn about the candidates, the more they reject them."

Caught-up in the throes of a bitterly contested primary season, the GOP hopefuls seem to be losing traction among Latino voters.

For Latinos, Immigration is More Personal Than Political, Fox News Latino Poll Says

While the poll indicates that four of five Latinos who voted for Obama in 2008 would vote for him later this year, Latinos who voted for Republican Arizona Sen. John McCain four years ago are now divided between voting for Obama and the Republican candidates. Forty percent said that they favored Obama while 38 percent said they would vote for Romney. Obama also leads Santorum 38 percent to 34, and Gingrich 40 percent to 38.

McCain grabbed 31 percent of the overall Hispanic vote.

"The 2012 election will be a pocketbook election, and Barack Obama has failed Latinos on the economy," said Alexandra Franceschi, a spokesperson for the Republican National Committee. "From higher unemployment to record debt to skyrocketing gas prices, Latinos are worse off than they were four years ago because of Obama’s record of broken promises and failed policies."

The shift in Latino voter leanings may reflect a growing divergence with the GOP over issues -- in particular, over immigration.

Although immigration came in fourth among issues cited as important by likely Latino voters --to jobs and the economy, education, and health care-- voter responses on immigration show a wide discrepancy with the positions of GOP hopefuls.

The Fox News Latino poll show likely Latino voters across the country overwhelmingly support the DREAM Act (90 percent), favor a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants (85 percent), and believe undocumented workers help to grow the U.S. economy (82 percent).

During the February Arizona debate, both Romney and Santorum backed controversial Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, and all the candidates said they favored a stricter immigration policy.

Romney said he looked to Arizona’s controversial approach to immigration as a model and added that if he was president he would stop all federal lawsuits against state laws such as Arizona’s SB 1070. He also reaffirmed his support for building a wall on the U.S.-Mexican border and mandating the use of E-Verify to deter undocumented immigrants from finding employment.

Gingrich proposed during the debate the construction of a double fence along the U.S.-Mexico border and the deployment of thousands more Homeland Security Department employees to border areas. Santorum also said that he would beef up efforts to stop undocumented immigrants from entering the country.

Latino Voters Overwhelmingly Support Dream Act, Path to Citizenship, Poll Shows

"I think what you're going to see when the results come in is that we're going to see a good amount of Latino support," said Sylvia Garcia, the Gingrich campaign's National Hispanic Inclusion director. "We're finding a high amount of support among the Latino Evangelical community."

Paradoxically, immigration is also the issue in which President Obama receives his lowest approval rating among Latino voters --some 41 percent disapprove of  the job he is doing regarding immigration, with the number climbing higher to 56 percent among Latinos between the age of 35 and 44.

One area where Republicans could gain back ground among Latino voters is by the choice of Vice President. Almost one-third of Latino voters say that they would consider voting Republican if there were a Latino on the ticket.

Both Florida junior Sen. Marco Rubio and New Mexico Gov. Susana Martínez have been mentioned as possible names for the eventual GOP presidential ticket.

Almost one-quarter of Latinos said they would be more willing to vote for a Republican if Rubio was on the ticket, with this number rising to almost four-in-ten in Florida, a potential swing state.

About one-fifth of likely Latino voters would be more willing to vote for a Republican if Martínez  got the VP nod.

The Fox News Latino/Latin Insights poll was conducted by Latin Insights, a New York based independent research company, and compiled through a telephone survey conducted among a nationally representative sample of 1,200 likely Latino voters. The respondents were given the option of completing the survey in English and Spanish.

The margin of error for the poll is +/- 2.7 percent with 95 percent confidence.

For the full results of the national Fox News Latino poll of likely Latino voters click here.

Follow Andrew O'Reilly on Twitter: @aoreilly84

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