In the wake of Mitt Romney’s historically poor performance among Hispanic voters, GOP pollster Whit Ayres delivered more sobering news for his party on just how damaged the Republican brand is among that community.
According to a poll Ayres conducted in four battleground states that have high Hispanic populations, Hispanic voters said the GOP does not respect the values and concerns of their community. The GOP’s favorable rating is upside down in each state and the respondents did not equate the GOP with issues that are at the bedrock of the party.
Speaking with reporters in a small room at the National Press Club, Ayres was, at times, almost laughing at how badly Republicans performed in his poll, which was sponsored by GOP groups Resurgent Republic and the Hispanic Leadership Network. HLN Executive Director Jennifer Korn and former Sen. Norm Coleman, R-Minn., the president of American Action Network, also addressed reporters on the results and the GOP’s relationship with Hispanics.
In the poll, voters identified Democrats as the party more aligned with having ideas that will reduce the federal deficit or help small businesses grow.
“Now, come on, I mean we are the party of small business, right?” Ayres asked, looking at Coleman. “But we still haven’t made that sale to the Hispanic community.”
On which party “cares primarily about helping rich people,” at least 63 percent of Hispanic voters in each state — Colorado, Florida, Nevada and New Mexico — identified that with Republicans.
“Well, we win one!” Ayres said sarcastically. “Not exactly the one you want to win. ‘Is anti-immigrant’ — we win that one too. At least we weren’t shut out on this list.”
Coleman said that after years of harsh immigration rhetoric by Republicans, the GOP brand among Hispanics is in “terrible disrepair,” and if the party is going to compete in national elections going forward it requires changing its tone about immigration and also offering significant immigration policy proposals that would highlight the values crossover between the GOP and Hispanics.
“It’s critical that the next Republican nominee for president understand what we’re talking about today,” Coleman said.
The poll, conducted by Ayres’ firm, North Star Opinion Research, surveyed 400 Hispanic registered voters in four states who voted in the 2012 elections. Live, bilingual callers conducted the interviews from Nov. 28 to Dec. 7, and the poll had a 4.9-point margin of error.
Ayres noted that Hispanics have been voting Democratic for years. The realistic goal is not win a majority, but to win a percentage of Hispanic voters in the mid-40s, not the mid-20s. Romney won 27 percent of the Hispanic vote, the lowest total for a Republican in a two-person presidential election since 1976.
At the same time, the white percentage of the electorate has dropped from 88 percent in 1976 to 72 percent in 2012. Ayres said that if the demographics of the 2004 electorate were the same in 2012, Romney would be president. And Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., would have won in 2008 had the demographics looked more like 1980.
“Trying to win a national election by gaining a larger and larger share of a smaller and smaller percentage of the population is not a winning proposition,” Coleman said.
The bright side is that Republicans have room to grow with Hispanic voters who consider themselves conservative, a significant portion of whom supported Obama. The poll also found significant minorities of voters who said government was “doing too many things better left to individuals and businesses,” a group Republicans again underperformed with.
Finally, on a generic ballot test for 2016, more than 40 percent in each state said they would at least consider voting for a Republican if they like the candidate and his or her policies.
“The patient’s not dead, but it’s on life support,” Coleman said of the GOP brand among Hispanics. “The good news is — the reason we’re here — is that there is a path to a brighter future, there is a path to tap into the Latino community and garner greater support.”