WASHINGTON – Hispanics are returning to the Democratic Party after several years of drifting toward the Republicans, with many saying Bush administration policies have been harmful to their community, a poll showed Thursday.
By 57 percent to 23 percent, more Hispanic registered voters say they favor Democrats than Republicans, according to a survey by the nonpartisan Pew Hispanic Center.
That 34 percentage point Democratic edge — which includes people who said they lean toward either party — has grown since July 2006, when a Pew poll measured a 21 point difference. Then, 49 percent of registered Hispanic voters said they favored Democrats and 28 percent chose Republicans.
In 1999 before President Bush's election, more Hispanics favored Democrats than Republicans by 58 percent to 25 percent — about the same margin as in the current poll.
When the former Texas governor became president in 2001, Republicans saw an opportunity to woo Hispanics to the GOP. But as the 2008 presidential campaign has heated up, immigration has become a major issue and GOP candidates have competed over who could concoct the toughest plan for cracking down on illegal immigration.
The survey found that among Hispanic registered voters:
—Forty-one percent said Bush administration policies have been harmful to Hispanics, 16 percent said they have been helpful and 33 percent said they have not had much impact.
—Forty-four percent said Democrats have more concern for Hispanics, 8 percent chose Republicans and another 41 percent said there is no difference.
—Forty-one percent said Democrats do a better job of handling illegal immigration, 14 percent named the GOP and 26 percent said neither.
Younger Hispanics are slightly more inclined than older ones to be Democrats, while those with higher incomes lean more toward the GOP than those with lower earnings, the poll showed.
Using September 2007 Census Bureau data and projecting from 2004 voting behavior, Pew estimated there would be 8.6 million Hispanic voters next year — 1 million more than in 2004.
While that would be a small portion of the overall expected vote, Pew estimated that Hispanics comprise a large enough share of eligible voters to affect the outcome in four states where Bush prevailed in 2004 by 5 percentage points or fewer: New Mexico, Florida, Colorado and Nevada.
Among Hispanics who are registered Democrats, 59 percent said they want Hillary Rodham Clinton to be their party's presidential candidate, followed by 15 percent who prefer Barack Obama. Among Hispanic Republicans, Rudy Giuliani leads Fred Thompson, 35 percent to 13 percent.
The survey involved telephone interviews with 2,003 randomly chosen Hispanics conducted from Oct. 3 through Nov. 9. It had a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 2.7 percentage points. It included 843 Hispanic registered voters, for whom the margin of sampling error was plus or minus 4 points.