01/24/2013 03:26 pm ET

Republicans Could Reach More Latino Voters By Softening On Immigration Reform, Poll Analysis Says

When GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney lost the 2012 election to Barack Obama, he carried the lowest level of support from Latino voters since Bob Dole’s failed bid in 1996.

But it doesn’t have to be that way.

A polling analysis presented by Latino Decisions Wednesday says that 31 percent of registered Latino voters would be more likely to vote for Republican candidates if the GOP were to change course on immigration, The Los Angeles Times reports.

“Republicans don’t need to win a majority of Latino votes to win; they just need to not get crushed,” Stanford University professor Gary Segura said, according to the Los Angeles Times.

The analysis confirms what has become obvious to many: the hardline attitude on immigration adopted by a large swath of the Republican Party, including its unsuccessful presidential candidate, has turned off Latinos.

While most Latino voters tend to view jobs and the economy as the most important political issue, immigration reform is an emotional issue and one that unifies the diverse Hispanic community.

The overwhelming majority of Latino voters favor immigration reform. A Fox News Latino poll released last year found 90 percent of likely Hispanic voters supported the DREAM Act and 85 percent of Latinos supported a path to citizenship.

And Latinos aren’t alone. Recent polls indicates the hardline immigration position adopted by many Republicans appears increasingly out of step with mainstream America.

A survey conducted by the Associated Press and GFK found that 6 in 10 Americans support a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, including a 53 percent of Republican respondents.

Many Hispanic leaders within the GOP have taken note of the Party’s problem with Latino voters and hope to rein it in. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, for example, has emerged as a party spokesman on the issue, who hopes to take a lead in crafting a bipartisan reform.

A campaign adviser on Hispanic issues for the Romney campaign, former Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez, helped found a super PAC called in November to help elect Republicans sympathetic to immigration reform, according to The Washington Post.



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