LAS VEGAS -- President Barack Obama is the presidential election choice of 80 percent of Latino civil rights activists, organizers and ordinary voters gathered at the National Council of La Raza Convention this week.
Only 10 percent of those who responded to the civil rights organization’s text message poll indicated that they plan to cast a ballot for Mitt Romney, the presumptive GOP nominee, the nonpartisan advocacy organization said Monday.
The poll of 804 people who responded to text message inquires over the weekend is a decidedly small sample. And many of the activists and labor organizers who attended the NCLR conference are longtime Democrats. Still, the results show that Romney faces a huge uphill climb to win Latino voters and correct a deficit also seen in large, random-sample polls, NCLR officials said.
“Traditionally, Latinos have broken two-to-one for Democrats versus Republicans,” said Clarissa Martinez de Castro, Director of Civic Engagement at NCLR. “But Latinos also have a historically been willing to split the ticket and support candidates regardless of party affiliation,” Gallardo continued. “There are not so many examples of this in the recent past, but … the idea that Latinos will never vote for a Republican -- we know that this is not true. But you have to work for it. Nothing is free.”
NCLR President Janet Murguia expressed disappointment that both Obama and Romney declined invitations to address the thousands of Latino activists gathered for the organization’s annual convention in Las Vegas this week. However, a series of Obama administration officials appeared, announcing policy proposals and commitments to Latino civil rights concerns. They included Attorney General Eric Holder, Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan and Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Director Richard Cordray.
“We are particularly disappointed not to hear from Gov. Romney,” said Murguia. “Our community is eager to know his positions, because for many of us, the last time that we really hear from him, the last that we know of him, is some of the positions he took during the primaries. This represents, quite simply, just a huge missed opportunity.”
Some political analysts have estimated that Romney needs as much as 40 percent of the Latino vote to win the November election. The Romney campaign may plan to focus its efforts to reach Latino voters on Florida and Arizona, abandoning hopes of attracting Hispanic support in other states, Murguia said.
During the primaries, Romney indicated that he would not sign the Dream Act if elected, would continue to build a fence along the southern U.S. border and would consider a bipartisan comprehensive immigration reform bill.
In an address at the National Association of Latino Elected Officials annual gathering last month in Florida, Romney said he would support deportation relief and citizenship for undocumented immigrants who serve in the armed forces or have earned graduate degrees. His comments came the week after Obama announced his administration would offer deportation relief for certain young, undocumented immigrants, often called Dreamers. Undocumented immigrants cannot enlist in the military.
The Romney campaign did give the convention a five-minute infomercial narrated by Ann Romney, Murguia said. NCLR aired the video during a Monday luncheon "in the interest of fairness," Murguia said.
“But we would also like to hear from him of other issues, “ Murguia said of Romney. “As we know, immigration is not the only issue that matters to Latinos. So we were particularly disappointed by the video, the rather generic video that Gov. Romney did elect to send. It did not speak to our issues at all.”
In the ad, Ann Romney emphasizes her husband's commitment to family, their lengthy marriage and his business and Olympics experience.
The NCLR text message poll also found that 36 percent of respondents identified jobs and the economy as the most important issues facing Latinos in the U.S., 29 percent pointed to immigration and 21 percent described education as a top political concern. The survey found that 73 percent strongly supported the Supreme Court’s decision to uphold the Affordable Care Act, while 8 percent disagreed with the court.
CORRECTION: A previous version of this story incorrectly attributed a quote about voting demographics to Carmilla Gallardo. The remarks were made by Clarissa Martinez de Castro, Director of Civic Engagement at NCLR.