The media often portray Latinos as a monolithic group of single-issue voters who care first and foremost about liberalizing our immigration laws. But a new poll from NBC Latino/Zogby reveals that immigration is a relatively minor concern for most Latinos, with only 5 percent citing it as their top issue.
Furthermore, a plurality — 42 percent — said that they would vote for a candidate with a different stance on immigration than their position, with 37 percent indicating they would not, and 21 percent undecided. A Gallup poll in May produced a similar result — respondents were given six choices and listed immigration as the fifth most important issue.
Even more important, 74 percent of Latinos told pollsters that they identified as being American, with only 19 percent stating that they identified themselves as both American and Latino, and 4 percent claiming that they identified more with their country of origin than the United States.
All of this is very good news because it means that most Latinos are no different than anyone else — they're proud to be Americans and their voting concerns are similar to those of other ethnic groups. This doesn't mean that politicians don't need to pay special attention to Latino voters, but I think it shows that there is no need to pander to them on the immigration issue.
If there's a strong Latino turnout in the upcoming election, pundits might jump to the conclusion that President Obama's policies on the immigration issue may have turned the tide, but the truth is that Latino voters trust the Democrats more on the economy and health care, two issues that they consistently rank as more important than immigration. Food for thought for the pro-business wing of the GOP that thinks they can appeal to the Latino vote by liberalizing immigration policy. It simply isn't likely to work unless Latinos perceive the Republican party as one that will do better on job creation, health care, and a variety of other issues.
Of course, Latinos aren't the only misunderstood voters in the American mosaic. President Obama and Governor Romney have also been competing to see who can appear to be more pro-Israel, in order to appeal to Jewish voters. This despite the fact that polls indicate that Jewish voters don't tend to vote on the Israel issue. Their concerns are the same as everyone else.
The moral of the story is that politicians need to do what's right for the country, rather than trying to craft policies on issues they think will appeal to various voting blocks. There are no shortcuts to winning votes.
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