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Latinos Are Riled, Restless and Ready

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August in the nation's capital is usually a languid time to recharge during a congressional recess in anticipation of the hurly burly after Labor Day. But there is nothing slow about the dog days of summer this year, what with an important midterm congressional election just around the corner. People are paying attention to the elections much earlier than in the past, including the growing bloc of Latino voters.

The NALEO Educational Fund recently conducted a survey of 1600 Latino registered voters, 400 each in the four states with open or competitive gubernatorial or senatorial contests this November -- California, Colorado, Florida and Texas. With three out of five potential Latino voters residing in these four states, this survey offers the most current insight into Latino voter opinions nationwide.

One major finding: an overwhelming majority (61%) of Latino registered voters across the board say they will "definitely" vote in the November midterm elections, this despite the historically low voter participation in "off year" elections.

In California, with 62% of Latinos saying they will "definitely" vote in November, former Democratic Governor Jerry Brown was ahead of his Republican rival Meg Whitman in the gubernatorial race (49%-15%), but significantly, less than half of Latino voters say they support him. In outreach to Latino voters, 20% say Jerry Brown is making an effort, compared to 10% who say the same thing about Whitman.

Since the primary and this poll, Whitman has invested an extraordinary amount in Spanish-language media and recent polls suggest she is now pulling even with Brown.

For the Senate seat, incumbent Democrat Barbara Boxer is heavily favored among Latino voters, with 61% saying they prefer Boxer over her Republican opponent Carly Fiorina (16%). Additionally, 25% of Latinos say Senator Boxer is making an effort to reach out to Latino voters, compared to just 13% who feel that way about Fiorina.

In Colorado, which holds its primary next week, Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper enjoys a considerable lead over former Congressman Scott McInnis in the gubernatorial race. If the election were held today, 59% say they would vote for Mayor Hickenlooper, versus 19% for Representative McInnnis. Twelve percent say they are undecided.

Among Latino voters, the two Democratic candidates vying for the U.S. Senate are in a close race. Thirty-eight percent say they would vote for incumbent Senator Michael Bennet, with 31% saying they prefer former Speaker Andrew Romanoff. Just 8% of Latino voters surveyed said they would vote for either Republican candidate -- Ken Buck or Tom Wiens.

Nonetheless, few Latino voters in Colorado consider that the candidates -- regardless of office or party affiliation -- are reaching out to Latino voters. Less than a third (28%) say Mayor Hickenlooper is making an effort to reach out to Latino voters. Twenty percent feel that way about former Speaker Romanoff, 19% for Senator Bennet, and just 11% for former Congressman McInnis. Overall, 20% offer that none of the candidates are making an effort to reach out.

The NALEO Educational Fund survey finds the Senate race in Florida a complete tossup among Latino voters. It is literally a dead heat, with an equal number of Latino voters (35%) saying they support either Governor Charlie Crist -- running as an Independent -- or Republican contender Marco Rubio, a former Speaker of the Florida House of Representatives. Just 17% say they favor Democratic Congressman Kendrick Meek for the upper chamber, and only 5% say they are undecided.

More than a third of Latinos surveyed considered that both Rubio and Crist are making an effort to reach out to Latino voters, while less than 10% said the same thing about Meek.

In the race for governor of the Sunshine State, 20% say they are undecided in a race against Democrat Alex Sink and Republican Bill McCollum. Sink does, however, enjoy greater support among Latino voters compared to McCollum (35%-17%), a number that will likely increase should she decide to pick a Latino as a running mate; former Miami Mayor Manny Díaz figures prominently in the unofficial Florida political chatter to join her on the ticket.

In examining the Texas gubernatorial race, Governor Rick Perry is running for an unprecedented third term, but just 23% of Latino voters support him, compared to his Democratic rival, former Houston Mayor Bill White (61%). Nearly 59% of Texas Latino voters say they will "definitely" vote this November.

Latino voters are riled, restless and ready for November and clearly will prove to be pivotal in statewide races come Election Day.

The survey was conducted June 14-21 and has an overall margin of error of +/-2. 5% .
It is available at: http://www.naleo.org/latinovote.html