Photo: New Mexico
Hispanic voters comprise nearly 40% of the electorate in the state of New Mexico, making New Mexico the state where Latino voters have the greatest influence on the election outcomes. Consequently, many have suggested that New Mexico may provide a glimpse into the future of Latino politics nationally. This context makes New Mexico important even in an election year when the state is not included in the list of must watch battleground races.
At a live streamed panel at the University of New Mexico’s main campus, national political analysts, advocates, and community leaders from New Mexico discussed how Latino voters and the immigration issue will shape the presidential and Senate races in this state and beyond. Gabriel Sanchez, Associate Professor at the University of New Mexico and Director of Research for Latino Decisions, analyzed fresh polling of Latino voters in New Mexico from a poll conducted by Latino Decisions for America’s Voice.
In New Mexico and at the national level, Latino and new citizen voters are changing politics. With immigration high on the list of issues these voters want addressed, it’s no surprise that Republican candidates who have embraced hardline positions – including Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney and Senate nominee Heather Wilson — are faring poorly with New Mexico Latinos. By contrast, the embrace of common sense immigration reform by both President Barack Obama and Senate candidate Martin Heinrich have played a key role in Latino support for Democrats in presidential, Senate and House races.
Said Gabriel Sanchez, Associate Professor of Political Science, University of New Mexico and Director of Research for Latino Decisions: “One of the key findings in this poll was the importance Hispanic voters in New Mexico placed on immigration, with this policy coming in only second to the economy as the most important issue that Latino voters want addressed. We also found that nearly 60% of Latinos in the state of New Mexico know someone who is undocumented, and nearly half know someone who is eligible for the DREAM Act if passed. This to me implies that immigration has become personal to Latinos, which might explain the salience of the policy area among Latino voters.”
Christine Sierra, Professor of Political Science, University of New Mexico and Director, Southwest Hispanic Research Institute, said: “Today’s polling is crystal clear: immigration matters to Latino voters here in New Mexico. New Mexico Latinos support a reformed driver’s license bill, favor the President’s deferred action policy and enthusiasm is growing. Policymakers at both the state and national level should take note– when it comes to immigration policy, Latino voters are watching.”