His national poll numbers have dipped following a poor debate performance, but President Barack Obama continues to run strong in the Latino community, according to the latest polls.
It will be imperative for Democrats to translate that into votes at the polls on Nov. 6 if Obama is to carry several key swing states and win a second term.
The latest Pew Hispanic poll released Thursday shows the president still commanding a formidable advantage among Latinos at better than three-to-one.
“Support for the president has remained strong throughout” the 2012 campaign, said Mark Hugo Lopez, the center’s associate director, “and that support hasn’t budged much in the last year.
The poll of 903 registered voters, conducted from Sept. 7 to Oct. 4, has Obama leading Romney 69 to 21 percent. The remaining 10 percent were undecided or refused to respond, meaning Obama’s Latino vote percentage could reach the mid-70s and be substantially higher than his 67 percent Latino support in the 2008 election.
Some 23.7 million Hispanics are eligible to vote, the survey noted, an increase of more than 4 million in the past four years, making them 11 percent of the total eligible electorate.
But Latino turnout at the polls generally lags that of other groups, the report said, with only 77 percent saying they were “absolutely certain” to vote this time, compared with 89 percent of all registered voters in a separate Pew Research Center nationwide survey taken at the same time.
As a result, there may be “more Latino votes in this election,” Lopez said, but their overall percentage of the electorate may not increase substantially.
Obama leads 72 to 22 percent among Latino registered voters who say they are “absolutely certain” to vote.
That could prove problematic for Romney in what is expected to be a tight race in which every vote could make a difference in several hotly-contested swing states.
Obama has been able to weather critiques over the lack of progress on immigration reform and record deportations, as well as a less-than-stellar jobless situation, to increase his share of the “Latino vote” from 2008, when he defeated Sen. John McCain by 36 percentage points. The Romney campaign set a goal of winning 38 percent of the “Latino vote,” but the candidate appears well short of that figure.
Obama’s lead is built on increasing economic optimism among Latino voters and his decision to circumvent Congress and provide relief for young undocumented immigrants, according to Pew.
Seven in ten Latino voters believe their financial situation will improve in the next year and 45 percent are happy with the direction of the country, compared to 28 percent of all voters.
Eighty-six percent of Latino voters approve of Obama’s deferred action program for DREAMers, a program that has personally affected many of their friends and family members. About a quarter of Latino voters say they know someone who was applied for the program and know someone who has been deported or detained in the past year.
Pew estimates that 23.7 million Latinos are eligible to vote this year, 11 percent of the overall electorate. And a separate estimate from the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials projects that a record 12.2 million will vote on Election Day.