WASHINGTON -- A recent poll out of California found an uphill battle for Republicans hoping to make inroads with Latinos, the largest and fastest growing minority in the United States.
The survey, conducted by a GOP pollster and consultant, found that Latino voters hold "widely negative" views about the Republican party. Envisioned as a way to "begin the process of understanding both the challenges as well as the opportunities for future Republican candidates in gaining a greater share of the Latino vote," the poll found Hispanic voters tend to view GOP candidates as overly conservative and distrust Republican views on immigration.
While California is unlikely to play a defining role in the 2012 elections, the poll could have implications for states like Arizona, Colorado and New Mexico, where Hispanics have increasing political influence.
Commissioned by Republican strategist Marty Wilson, who managed Carly Fiorina's failed campaign for the California Senate, the survey of 400 California Latino voters found a wide Latino-GOP disconnect in the Golden State. Though they tried to frame it in the best terms possible, Wilson and GOP pollster Bob Moore conceded that there was much "work to be done to convince California Latinos that the Republican Party and its candidates can effectively represent them."
Only 26 percent of Latinos polled viewed Republicans favorably, while 62 percent had a favorable view of Democrats. And asked whether Republicans should “stick to core values and nominate true Conservatives,” only 22 percent of Latino voters agreed. Approximately one-third of Latino voters say they will never vote for a Republican.
Unsurprisingly, immigration was found to be one of the most defining issues, with Wilson and Moore describing it as "the elephant in the GOP living room."
Asked who they trusted to reform immigration laws, 57 percent of voters chose Democrats, while only 21 percent went with Republicans. A pathway to citizenship was favored by a full 67 percent of Latinos surveyed.
Latinos made up 22 percent of the California electorate in the 2010 midterm elections, casting 1.7 million votes statewide, an increase of 300,000 votes from the 2008 presidential election, according to the polling firm Moore Information, Inc. Fiorina and Republican gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman received approximately 30 percent of the Latino votes cast, according to exit polls.
"Clearly, Republican candidates must do better and must set their sights on earning at least 40 percent of these votes, if they are to have a reasonable expectation of gaining statewide office," wrote Wilson and Moore.
The survey, which had a margin of error of plus or minus 5 percentage points, was conducted in both Spanish and English.