The Democratic Party enjoys a sizable advantage among Latino voters. It is largely taken for granted that Republicans can earn a greater share of the Latino vote if they support less restrictive immigration policies and legalization for illegal immigrants. This study examines public opinion data from 2006 to consider whether this is the case. The 2006 election is a particularly good year to examine congressional behavior on immigration and the Latino vote because House Republicans passed a strong enforcement bill that year that prompted national protests. They also turned aside efforts to legalize illegal immigrants. This study found that Latinos living in House districts represented by pro-immigration Republican incumbents were no more likely to support that incumbent than Latinos living in House districts represented by Republican incumbents with pro-enforcement records. Supporting more generous immigration policies does not appear to be a way for Republicans to increase their share of the Latino vote.
Among this Backgrounder’s findings:
- Among House Republican incumbents in 2006 there was a great deal of variation in immigration voting records.
- Latinos living in congressional districts with pro-immigration Republican incumbents were no more likely to support the incumbent than Latinos living in districts with Republican incumbents with more restrictive immigration records.
- Adopting pro-immigration policies is unlikely to increase the Republican share of the Latino vote based on these results.
- There is some evidence that pro-immigration Republican incumbents did worse among non-Hispanic whites, indicating that supporting amnesties is likely to cost Republicans votes among non-Hispanic white voters.
- These findings are consistent with what occurred after the 1986 IRCA amnesty for illegal immigrants, signed by President Reagan. The Republican Party lost Latino support from the 1984 to the 1988 presidential election.
- These findings do not mean Republican efforts at outreach to Latinos are misplaced. But embracing a position on immigration similar to that of the Democrats seems unlikely to increase Republicans’ share of the Hispanic vote and is likely to alienate other voters.
[Editor’s Note: The full article is available at the “Original Article” link below.]