Survey of Hispanics Shows Opportunity for GOP

By Christine Hall | July 7, 2008 | 8:29 PM EDT

1st Add: Includes information on political advertising; Hispanic demographics

( - A new survey of Hispanics shows a "competitive environment for the Latino vote," this year and in 2004, according to Robert de Posada, president of the Latino Coalition.

While nearly half of Hispanics identify most with the Democratic Party, according to the survey, fully half say that if the 2004 election for president were held today, George W. Bush would be their candidate of choice over Al Gore. And more Latinos -- especially young Hispanics and recent immigrants-- identify themselves as Republicans compared to a similar survey conducted a year ago.

The key for Republicans winning the Hispanic vote now and in 2004, de Posada believes, is for the GOP to target the 40 percent of Hispanics who are not now registered to vote by addressing issues they identify as priorities -- immigration, discrimination, education and unemployment.

"The results of this study are clearly a wake-up call for both major political parties," said de Posada. "The days of one party writing off this block of voters, and the other party taking them for granted, are over."

Other results of the survey showed that a majority of Hispanics believe that bilingual education programs should focus on making sure students learn English well; that the President's proposal to give uninsured workers a $3,000 tax subsidy is preferable to expanding Medicaid; that the quality of education in their local public schools is only fair or poor; and that their children will have a better quality of life than they did.

Latinos also told the pollsters that illegal immigrants should be given the same government-provided benefits as legal immigrants. De Posada said it's important for the GOP to address that issue, but acknowledged that the traditional Republican base opposes such policies.

Meanwhile, Democratic Party strategists are hoping Hispanic voters will help flip control of the House back to Democrats.

"We can't win back the House without Hispanic candidates and turning out Hispanic voters," Esther Aquilera, a strategist with the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, said recently.

Democrats this year have recruited six Hispanics to run in competitive House districts, while the GOP points to their 39 Hispanic candidates for Congress and major state offices.

Both parties are spending money this year on political advertising directed at Hispanics.

Democrats plan to promote the party?s legislative agenda to Hispanic voters in 15 states starting in the fall: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Maryland, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oregon and Texas.

Republicans are airing a Spanish-language infomercial every month on Telemundo and Univision stations in six cities: Albuquerque, N.M.; Denver; Fresno, Calif.; Las Vegas; Miami and Orlando, Fla.

According to U.S. Census data, the U.S. Hispanic population has grown to 35 million over the past decade and now comprises 13 percent of the U.S. population. But only seven percent of ballots cast in the 2000 presidential elections were by Hispanics.

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