Hispanic voters starting to move away from Obama?

There are two ways to look at Gallup’s most recent analysis of support for Barack Obama, where Hispanic voter approval has slid 12 points since the beginning of the year.  Gallup believes that the problem stems from Obama’s stop-and-start focus on comprehensive immigration reform, noting that the two biggest month-on-month drops came when Obama had to retreat on promises to make it a legislative priority in 2010.  However, the second drop in May comes after a long stretch of demagoguery on the topic, too:

Hispanics’ approval of President Barack Obama’s job performance slipped to 57% in May, after falling from 69% in January to 64% in February. By contrast, whites’ and blacks’ approval of the president has been steady throughout 2010. …

The two major drops in Hispanics’ approval of Obama this year — in February and May — coincide with two periods when the president was under fire for not doing enough to promote comprehensive immigration reform in Congress.

After Obama’s State of the Union speech in January, several leading Hispanics and Hispanic groups criticized Obama for not devoting more attention to immigration reform in the speech — and, more specifically, for not fulfilling his campaign promise of making comprehensive immigration reform a top priority. As one Hispanic activist wrote at the time, “For those looking for a strong statement in support of comprehensive immigration reform, the speech was a big disappointment.” Illinois Rep. Luis Gutierrez was also publicly critical of Obama after the speech. …

Obama also drew considerable ire from Hispanic groups — as well as from New Jersey Sen. Robert Menendez — after making statements at the end of April in which he essentially removed comprehensive immigration reform from his legislative agenda for 2010, citing political obstacles.

Again, there appeared to be an almost immediate impact: Obama’s approval rating from Hispanics dropped seven points in the week after he made the statements, compared with the week prior to those statements.

Gallup’s analysis is supported by one of the internals they publish, the breakdown between English-speaking and Spanish-speaking Hispanic voters.  The former group has kept their support level for Obama more consistent, dropping from 65% to 60% in the last five months.  Support for Obama among Spanish-speaking Hispanics has dropped over 20 points, from 73% in January to 52% now.

However, if the issue really is immigration reform, then Obama’s demagoguery on Arizona’s SB1070 should have them flocking to Obama’s banner.  He has consistently argued against it; his Department of Justice has begun planning legal challenges to the bill.  Yet in the same period when Obama spent more time fighting against SB1070 than fighting the Gulf oil spill, support in both groups dropped.

The problem might not be immigration reform at all.  It may be a case of correlation being confused with causation.  May has turned out to be a bad month for Obama, and there isn’t any particular reason why Hispanic voters would be an exception to the trend.