Ten days ago, Barack Obama tried to solidify his standing among Hispanic voters by taking executive action to offer a temporary decrease in deportations, along the lines of his DREAM Act proposal. Clearly, the President wants to gain votes and stoke enthusiasm with this end run around Congress in this traditional Democratic constituency — but will it work? A new poll of Hispanic voters from Gallup shows that immigration falls to a low priority in this election cycle, and that like most other voters, they’re much more concerned about the economy:
U.S. Hispanics prioritize immigration, healthcare, and unemployment to equal degrees, according to a new USA Today/Gallup poll asking about the importance of six national policy issues. Twenty percent of Hispanics each mention one of the top three issues as mattering most to them, while 17% name economic growth, 11% name the gap between the rich and poor, and 7% name the federal budget deficit. Hispanic registered voters, however, put healthcare and all economic issues before immigration, which 12% name as their most important issue. …
USA Today/Gallup asked the same issue-importance question of all Americans in Gallup Daily tracking interviews from June 13-14. Among all Americans and U.S. registered voters, healthcare, economic growth, and the federal deficit roughly tie as the most important issues, while immigration ranks last among both groups of Americans.
The good news — so far — for Obama is that he gets 66% of registered Hispanic voters, to 25% for Romney. In 2008, Obama got 67% of the Hispanic vote. At the very least, he’s not losing ground in this critical demographic.
That support was calculated prior to the announcement earlier this month, but the question from this survey is whether Obama will end up with any kind of a bump at all — and whether it might result in some damage to his standing. Most Americans are concerned about jobs and the economy (36% in the aggregate in this poll, but regularly north of 50% in WaPo/ABC and Rasmussen polls) than immigration (a paltry 5% overall, and only 12% of registered Hispanic voters). A candidate who dodges this question on the campaign trail leaves himself open to the perception that he’s out of touch; an incumbent who seems to be working to look busy on a low-tier issue like immigration while simultaneously saying and doing nothing on jobs and the economy risks looking clueless and incompetent.
The reward on this move looks small, while the risk of failure high. And since we still have more than four months to go before the election, it’s difficult to imagine that this policy change will resonate long enough for the reward to be anything but ephemeral if another bad jobs report comes out between now and the election.