A path to citizenship would further swell the growing numbers of Hispanics on the voting rolls. Can Republicans really garner a majority of this new tranche of likely Democrats? Can they convert those who are now voting Democratic? The answer is yes, but only if you believe that Hispanics are itching to be Republican but for the party’s stand on immigration. As columnist Charles Krauthammer puts it, Hispanics “should be a natural Republican constituency—striving immigrant community, religious, Catholic, family-oriented, and socially conservative (on abortion, for example); the principal reason they go Democratic is the issue of illegal immigrants.”
The data suggest otherwise. First, Hispanics are more socially liberal than might be imagined. The Pew Research Center notes, “Latinos have often been characterized as more socially conservative than most Americans. On some issues, such as abortion, that’s true. But on others, such as acceptance of homosexuality, it is not. When it comes to their own assessments of their political views, Latinos, more so than the general public, say their views are liberal.” It’s telling that when asked if they backed President Obama’s position that “health insurance organizations should be required to cover contraception,” 68 percent of Hispanics said yes; only 11 percent said no.
But it’s on the question of big government that Hispanics stand most solidly with Democrats. The 2011 Pew Hispanic Center survey asked Latinos whether they would “pay higher taxes to support a larger government or pay lower taxes and have a smaller government”? Hispanics backed higher taxes and more government by 75 percent to 19 percent. For the population as a whole, 48 percent favored smaller government to 41 percent wanting big government. Even Obama’s top political adviser, David Plouffe, seems to share the Coulter hypothesis: “The bigger problem [Republicans have] got with Latinos isn’t immigration,” Plouffe told Time. “It’s their economic policies and health care. The group that supported the president’s health care bill the most—Latinos.”