PRINCETON, NJ -- 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.
The findings are based on Gallup Daily tracking interviews with 1,753 Hispanic adults in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia conducted April 16-May 31. The sample includes 1,005 Hispanic registered voters who, on a weighted basis, represent 47% of the total sample of U.S. Hispanics.
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.
Obama Enjoys Solid Lead Among Hispanics
The USA Today/Gallup Hispanic poll also finds President Barack Obama leading presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney by 66% to 25% among Hispanic registered voters, with 9% undecided -- similar to Hispanic preferences in the 2008 presidential election. Hispanics' support for Obama is consistent with their Democratic political orientation, with 60% of Hispanic registered voters in the latest poll identifying as Democrats or leaning Democratic and 27% identifying as or leaning Republican.
Given the current dampened support for Obama among non-Hispanic whites, Obama's ability to build support or, more specifically, registration and turnout, among Hispanics in 2012 is widely seen as critical to his ability to win re-election. Thus, both candidates are carefully wooing the Hispanic vote.
Most recently, Obama announced that the U.S. will temporarily defer deportation of certain young undocumented immigrant workers, and Romney adopted a newly softened posture on immigration policy in his address last week to the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials in Orlando, Fla. Romney also took aim at Obama's economic policies, citing the harm the weak economy is doing to the Hispanic community.
Obama Winning Among Hispanics Focused on Immigration and the Economy
The new USA Today/Gallup poll makes it clear that economic issues -- particularly unemployment and economic growth -- are more important to Hispanic voters nationwide than immigration. At present, Obama fares significantly better than Romney among Hispanics who cite each of these issues.
Obama leads Romney by 75 percentage points -- 86% to 11% -- among Hispanic voters whose top issue concern is the gap between the rich and poor. He leads by 50 or more points among those citing healthcare and immigration policies. And he leads by 25 or more points among those who cite unemployment and economic growth. Among only one group of Hispanics, those citing the federal budget deficit as most important, does Romney beat Obama, 54% to 34%.
Immigrants and First-Generation Hispanic Americans More Focused on Immigration
Although Hispanic voters are less likely to mention immigration as their top concern, those who are immigrants and first-generation Hispanic Americans are more likely to mention it than those whose family has been in the U.S. longer than that. Specifically, 16% of Hispanic voters who are themselves immigrants to the U.S. name immigration as a priority, similar to the 14% of those who were born here but with at least one parent born abroad. By contrast, 7% of Hispanic voters who, along with their parents, were U.S.-born do the same.
Hispanics are as supportive of Obama at this point in the 2012 presidential election as they were in 2008, making them a key segment of Obama's 2012 coalition. Thus, whether to encourage Hispanic turnout (in the case of Obama) or to make inroads with Hispanics in electoral support (in the case of Romney), both candidates are making obvious overtures to the Hispanic community with pro-immigration policies. However, the current poll suggests immigration may not be the issue on which most Hispanics are focused. Rather, the economy -- specifically, unemployment and economic growth -- is of greatest concern to nearly four in 10 Hispanic voters, while another 21% are most concerned about healthcare.
The economy also happens to dominate the issue concerns of all U.S. voters, creating an important opportunity for Romney and Obama to attract Hispanic support with the same economy-centric message that could benefit each nationally. For now, however, Hispanic voters who name the economy as most important are still backing Obama by a wide margin.
Results for this USA Today/Gallup poll of Hispanics are based on telephone interviews conducted April 16-May 31, 2012 on the Gallup Daily tracking survey, with a random sample of 1,753 adults, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia.
For results based on the total sample of Hispanics, one can say with 95% confidence that the margin of error is ±3 percentage points.
For results based on the sample of 1,005 Hispanic registered voters, one can say with 95% confidence that the margin of error is ±4 percentage points.
National adult results are based on telephone interviews conducted June 13-14, 2012, on the Gallup Daily tracking survey, with a random sample of 1,010 adults, aged 18+, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia.
Interviews are conducted with respondents on landline telephones and cellular phones, with interviews conducted in Spanish for respondents who are primarily Spanish-speaking. Each sample includes a minimum quota of 400 cell phone respondents and 600 landline respondents per 1,000 national adults, with additional minimum quotas among landline respondents by region. Landline telephone numbers are chosen at random among listed telephone numbers. Cell phone numbers are selected using random-digit-dial methods. Landline respondents are chosen at random within each household on the basis of which member had the most recent birthday.
Samples are weighted by gender, age, race, Hispanic ethnicity, education, region, adults in the household, and phone status (cell phone only/landline only/both, cell phone mostly, and having an unlisted landline number). Demographic weighting targets are based on the March 2011 Current Population Survey figures for the aged 18 and older non-institutionalized population living in U.S. telephone households. All reported margins of sampling error include the computed design effects for weighting and sample design.
In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.
For more details on Gallup's polling methodology, visit www.gallup.com.