Latino Voters Prefer Democrats; Enthusiasm Low

Latino voters prefer Democrats but they appear significantly less motivated than the rest of the U.S. to cast election ballots in the congressional races, a Pew Hispanic Center study found.

According to the national survey, released Tuesday, 65 percent of Latino voters planned to support the Democrats in their congressional districts, compared with 47 percent of U.S. voters. However, Latino support does not necessarily translate in votes for either party. Only 51 percent of Latino registered voters were absolutely certain they would vote-compared with 70 percent of U.S. voters

The only three Latino Candidates running in Senatorial or Gubernatorial elections this year are Republican candidates, but that doesn't seem to be swaying the voter base.

"The Latino vote appears to continue to strongly identify with the Democratic Party," said Mark Lope, Pew Hispanic Center's associate director.

A 51 percent Latino voter turnout would be a slight increase in turnout over 2008. But midterm turnout for all voters generally is lower than in presidential years. In 2006, about 32 percent of eligible Latino voters showed up at the polls.

"Even though they say they plan to vote, many things may get in the way of actually turning out to vote," Lope said.

About 19.3 million Latinos, the nation's largest minority group, are eligible to vote, Pew Hispanic estimates. Two of every three live in California, Texas, Florida or New York.

Latinos voted more than 2-to-1 for Obama in 2008. But the sagging economy and outrage among some voters has the Democratic Party concerned about a general apathy among its core supporters and some newer and independent voters.

Latino voter turnout is generally lower than for U.S. registered voters overall. But the Latino share of all voters increased from 6 percent in 2004 to 7.4 percent in 2008, according to Pew Hispanic's data. Nearly half of Latino eligible voters say they voted in 2008.

Some have suggested Latino voters would stay home because of lack of action on immigration reform legislation by the Obama administration. However, an Arizona immigration law and the Obama administration's attempt to thwart may also serve as rallying points for get-out-the-vote drives among Latinos.

Ben Monterroso, executive director of Mi Familia Vota, said his group is targeting new Latino voters in Texas, Arizona and Colorado who are less likely go vote. Mi Familia Vota is a group trying to increase Latino voting numbers.

"Neighborhoods where we are working, from Houston to Phoenix, Yuma to Denver, we have seen the Latino community being interested in the elections out of the outrage" over Arizona's immigration law and anger over largely Republican votes against legislation that would have given many young people brought to the country illegally by their parents a chance to become legal U.S. residents.

Immigration did not rank as a top voting issue for Latino registered voters in the Pew Hispanic survey. It came in fifth behind education, jobs, health care and the federal budget deficit.

But two-thirds of registered Latino voters say that have talked about the immigration issue with someone they know in the past year. Those who had were more motivated to vote, the survey found.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.