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Immigration Reform the Key to GOP Success?

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A poll suggests that support for the GOP among Latinos will increase if Congressional Republicans take a leadership role on immigration reform.

The poll shows that 78% of Latinos say it is very or extremely important for Congress to approve a path to citizenship this year. More importantly for GOP prospects in 2016, the poll shows that 45% of Latinos are more likely to “vote Republican if the GOP takes a leadership role in passing immigration reform with a path to citizenship.”c

Now, one of the problems with poll results like this is that they are hyper-sensitive to question wording.  For example, what does “vote Republican” really mean?  Does it mean vote for a GOPer regardless of whether that GOPer supported immigration reform?  One would think that if a specific candidate opposed immigration reform, he or she would see no bump from Latinos even if the party as a whole was seen as supportive.  But we can’t tell that from the results to this question.  And how does the phrase “with a path to citizenship” influence responses.  Some Republicans might not go along with that aspect of immigration reform.  Does that gut their changes for increased Latino support?  And, ultimately, does this really matter for incumbent Republican House members running for re-election?  Few of them represent a Latino constituency that is so substantial that a bump up in support from Latinos will help them retain their seats.

Yet, when it comes to the national image of the Republican Party, it’s been simultaneously less attractive to Latino voters and, as the ethnic group grows, more dependent on Latino support.  That is the bigger play here.  Regardless of the problems with question wording, the poll suggests the GOP can return to Bush ’04-like support – 44% of the Latino vote in 2004 and avoid Romney’s dismal 27% — if the party is seen as getting on the immigration reform bus. While this poll isn’t really convincing in that regard, the mere fact that it insinuates that the numbers can get better for the GOP is cause for hope.  It’s also cause for doing better, more complete research on the influence of immigration reform on the partisan attitudes of Latino voters.

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