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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Bush Doing Terribly with Hispanics

That’s the real message of two polls of Hispanics recently released by the Pew Hispanic Center (PHC). Of course, some of the presss, in their typically bone-headed way, have played up the fact that in the second PHC poll, taken in early January, Bush polls better among Hispanics than he did in the first PHC poll, conducted in early December, before Saddam was captured.
Wow. That’s a shocker. Bush got a bounce among Hispanics, just like he did among the general public. But does that mean he’s in a “strong position” with Hispanics, as an AP story on these polls put it?
Hardly. A review of the data from the PHC polls indicates that Bush is in an amazingly weak position with Hispanics and, as his bounce dissipates, is likely to be facing a very skeptical Hispanic electorate during the 2004 election campaign.
Take the issue of Iraq. In the December 8-11 PHC poll, Bush’s approval rating on Iraq among Hispanics was just 32 percent, with 57 percent disapproval. By comparison, in the public poll closest to the dates of the December PHC poll (CBS News/New York Times, December 10-13), Bush’s approval rating on Iraq among the general public was 45 percent approval/47 percent disapproval.
In addition, Hispanics in the December PHC poll endorsed by 15 points the proposition that “the Bush administration deliberately misled the American public about how big a threat Iraq was to the US before the war began (53 percent to 38 percent). And a slight plurality of Hispanics (47 percent to 45 percent) said the US made “the wrong decision in using military force against Iraq”. That compares to an analogous question in the CBS News poll mentioned above, where, by 64 percent to 28 percent, the general public said we did “the right thing in taking military action” and the exact same question in a mid-October Pew Research Center poll, where, by 60 percent to 33 percent, the public said we made the right decision in using military force against Iraq.
Finally, by 60 percent to 31 percent, Hispanics in the December PHC poll said the war in Iraq was not worth “the toll it has taken in American lives and other kinds of costs’. This compares to a 54 percent to 39 percent not-worth-it verdict among the general public on an analogous question in the CBS News poll.
In short, this poll documents that Hispanics, far from being patriotically enamored of the Iraq war, as has been erroneously asserted by some pundits, are actually far more critical of it than the general public. In fact, even in the January poll, since the post-Saddam capture increases in positive feelings about the Iraq situation among Hispanics are about equal to increases observed among the general public, Hispanics remain much more critical about Iraq than the public as a whole.
The same basic story can be observed in Hispanics’ views about the economy: more negative views than the public as a whole before Saddam’s capture, then an upward bounce in economic evaluations after Saddam’s capture–but no larger an upward bounce than other polls have captured among the general public. As a result, despite the bounce, Hispanics continue to be signifcantly more negative than the public as a whole about the economy.
One last note on these polls. In the December poll, Bush’s re-elect number among Hispanics was an abysmal 27 percent, compared to 56 percent for the Democratic candidate. That’s a 29 point gap and with any reasonable allocation of undecideds that gap should, if anything, be considered wider. By comparison, in 2000, Bush received 35 percent support among Hispanics and lost them by 27 points.
And we’re supposed to believe Bush is in a “strong position” with Hispanics? Maybe in some other universe.

6 comments on “Bush Doing Terribly with Hispanics

  1. MattG on

    I hear you Ron, and if the “Hispanic vote” in 2004 is 8% of total electorate as opposed to the 7% in 2002, then your’e right. But Bush certainly doesn’t “need 40% of the Hispanic vote to win” the 2004 election. As my numbers described below, a one-half of one-percentage point shift in the “white vote” (all these “ethnic vote” terms are a little silly, anyway) would offset a 15 % shift in the Hispanic vote.
    Wagster — I, too, find the electoral college weird, but hey, rules is rules. But I don’t know about Hispanics being especially well-concentrated to have more power in the electoral college than any other 12% of the population (not that “Hispanics” vote the same way, anyway). You cite the “pivotal” Southwest states, but California and Texas are probably not in play in 2004, so you must mean Nevada, Arizona, and New Mexcio. But are they any less “pivotal” than Iowa, Wisconsin, Oregon, New Hampshire, West Va., etc., all of which were very very close in 2000?
    I think all votes are important, and Ruy is doing what Mickey Kaus calls playing up the “Hispanic Hype”. It’s just another group, and annoyingly for some Democratic strategists, not easily led to believe in group victimology. Ruy’s EMD thesis, which I look forward to him eating if the Dems get their butts kicked in 2004, relies on a constant stream of Democrat-voting Mexican immigrants. But every current has an undercurrent — what happens when Mexican-Americans get wealthier? Do they still vote Democrat?
    If the vote’s as close as it was in 2000, then any group can claim to be “pivotal,” and they are. But

  2. Ron Thompson on

    I should have said that Bush needs 40% of Hispanics if he runs at the same percentage as 2000 among non-Hispanics. The reason 35% won’t do is that the Hispanic share of the total vote is increasing.

  3. Wagster on

    You write as if we elected our President directly. (A consummation devoutly to be wished, but not in our lifetimes.) Hispanics are concentrated in the pivotal swing states of the Southwest and hugely influential California. Also, both parties are courting them aggressively because they are the fastest growing minority.

  4. MattG on

    Why does Bush need to get 40% of Hispanics? He got 35% and won last time.
    Besides, Hispanics still make up only a small portion of the electorate. Around 7% of voters nationwide in 2002 were Hispanic. Assume 8% for 2004 (generous). Say they go 3-1 for the Democratic nominee. That’s 4% of the total electorate. Whites were 81% of voters in 2002. So Bush’d just need about a one-half of one-percent shift in White voters to counter his Hispanic numbers slipping to 27% (from 35%).

  5. Ron Thompson on

    As Chico Escuela said, “Keep your eye on the ball.” Bush has to get 40% of Hispanics. The fact that his reelect among Hispanics is only 27% in this poll is of great significance.

  6. Matty on

    Ruy Teixeira is predicting the Republicans are in trouble…
    Must mean another clock-cleaning for the Democrats is just around the corner!


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