Polls Show Latino Vote Up For Grabs

By Bruce Sullivan | July 7, 2008 | 8:25 PM EDT

(CNSNews.com) - Two new polls indicate that Latino voters, who are the fastest growing electoral group in the nation, may be shedding their traditionally Democratic mantle as they shape up to be a key swing vote in the 2000 elections.

In a recent Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll, Republican presidential frontrunner George W. Bush outscored both Democratic presidential nomination candidates in head-to-head competition among Latinos.

Bush beat Al Gore 50 percent to 39 percent and Bill Bradley 47 percent to 39 percent in the national telephone poll of 2,014 adults, which had a margin of error of plus or minus 2.2 percentage points.

Another poll by Zogby International shows that Latinos side with Republicans on several issues including taxes and abortion. The poll of 402 registered Latino voters showed that 68.7 percent of those polled agreed that "abortion destroys life and is manslaughter."

Additionally, 54.2 percent of those who participated in the Zogby poll said they "favor a tax rebate regarding the federal surplus." The poll had a 5 percent margin of error.

Although it is still to early to tell if those polls will result in a large shift of Latino voters to the GOP from the Democratic Party, which garnered 72 percent of the Latino presidential vote in the 1996 contest between President Clinton and Republican challenger Bob Dole, a spokesperson for one Latino civil rights group told CNSNews.com that neither party should take Latino voters for granted.

"This is a discerning vote. This is a vote that really looks at the candidate and that candidate's positions rather than party affiliation," said Lisa Navarrete, communications director for La Raza.

That tendency to critique politicians individually, and not march in lock step to a party tune, often results in Latinos splitting their votes between Democrats and Republicans, said Navarrete. She pointed out key elections in California and Florida, two states with large Latino populations, where voters elected candidates from both parties.

In Florida, Republican Jeb Bush won the gubernatorial race, and Democrat Bob Graham was elected to the U.S. Senate; while in California Democrat Barbara Boxer was also elected to the Senate, as Republican Dick Riordan was elected mayor of Los Angeles.

Navarrete said that although George W. Bush is obviously courting Latino voters, who have big populations in five of the largest states -California, New York, Texas, Florida and Illinois -, they are still waiting for Bush to more clearly outline his platform.

"We still don't know a lot about George W. Bush's agenda, vis a vis the Latino community, what role he intends for them to play in a future administration," said Navarrete. "Right now there's a lot of marketing going on, and while we're appreciative of that...there's still a lot of questions in the minds of Latino voters."