Oscar Corral, Miami Herald, Oct. 30
Miami — A clear majority of the nation’s Hispanics will support John Kerry for president, a new poll conducted for the Miami Herald shows — providing what could be an important boost in his quest for the White House.
With a million more Hispanic voters across the country this year than in 2004, the high support for Kerry means Bush and the Republicans don’t appear to be making the inroads into the Hispanic vote they hoped for after the 2000 election.
The poll, conducted for The Herald by Zogby International last week, shows that about 61 percent of Hispanic voters nationwide support Kerry, while about 33 percent support Bush. The poll of 751 Hispanic likely voters has a margin of error of 3.7 percent.
“What this means is that Kerry has done what Gore did,” pollster John Zogby said. “And secondly, it’s now over 60 percent of a larger group of Hispanics.”
The Hispanic vote is heavily in play in several key swing states such as Florida, New Mexico, Ohio and Michigan.
But Bush supporters say that Hispanics are eager to support the president in his reelection and will ultimately play a crucial role in a Bush victory.
“We are confident that the president is going to win, and win with the help of Latinos,” said Bush spokeswoman Sharon Castillo. “The poll that really matters is Nov. 2.”
Throughout the election season, analysts have said Kerry must keep Bush’s support among Hispanic Americans to less than 35 percent if he is to have a shot at defeating the president. The poll shows he seems to be doing that.
“He (Bush) is underperforming,” said Kerry campaign spokeswoman Fabiola Rodriguez-Ciampoli. “We have always said that the Latino vote would help us win this race.”
This year, about 6.9 million Hispanics are expected to vote nationwide, compared to 5.9 million in 2004. Hispanics will make up more than 6 percent of the electorate, a large number, but still far below the 13 percent that Hispanics make up in terms of total U.S. population.
Roughly reflecting the composition of the Hispanic population, about 58 percent of poll respondents were Mexican American, about 10 percent were Puerto Rican, 3.5 percent Cuban American, 2 percent Dominican and about 26 percent other nationalities.
Simon Rosenberg, president of the pro-Democratic New Democrat Network, says the poll’s findings are significant. NDN is a nonprofit group that has been aggressively targeting Hispanic voters nationwide.
“This means that Kerry wins the election,” Rosenberg said. “Bush’s pollster has said that if they don’t have 40 percent among Hispanics nationally, they won’t win the election.
“This is the first election where you really see the Hispanic vote start to change the electoral landscape.”
Both the Bush and Kerry campaigns have spent large amounts of money advertising both in English and Spanish media to lure Hispanic voters across the country.
For example, Rosenberg said the New Democrat Network has spent $6 million on ads in Spanish around the country, including places such as Wisconsin and Michigan, swing states where Hispanic voters were largely ignored four years ago. Kerry’s campaign and the Democratic National Committee have spent another $5 million.
The Bush campaign has spent $5 million on Hispanic advertising around the country, shattering the previous record by a candidate of $2 million, which is what Bush spent in 2000, Castillo said.
In Florida, which is the ultimate swing state and where 160,000 more Hispanics are expected to vote this year than in 2000, Hispanics are expected to make up more than 13 percent of the electorate, more than their 11 percent share in 2000.
The Kerry campaign is hoping that younger Cuban Americans and non-Cuban Hispanics can act as a political counterweight to older Cuban Americans, who heavily support Bush. But recent polls show Cubans still heavily support Bush in the state by about 4-1.
Bertha Diaz, a Cuban American from Miami who already voted and was polled by Zogby, said she cast a ballot for Bush.
“I’m a God believer, and I like that he doesn’t hide the fact that he believes in God,” Diaz said of Bush. “I like the security. We have not been attacked. I sound like a commercial, but it’s true.”
But many other Hispanics across the country say it’s Kerry all the way. Andres Ramos, a registered Democrat from Palo Alto, Calif., said Bush’s Iraq policy has been a “disaster.”
“I’m voting for Kerry because of the disaster in Iraq, the loss of prestige for us worldwide, the alienation of our allies,” Ramos said. “Al Qaida is a smaller group, it can easily be taken care of, it’s not a gigantic war like Bush has made it out to be.”
The poll also asked Hispanics which issues they considered most important. They said jobs and the economy are the most important, followed closely by the war in Iraq. Third and fourth in importance were the war on terror/security and healthcare.
Zogby explained that many Hispanics live in the western half of the country, which tends to feel less affected by the events of Sept. 11.
Lori Baros of Santa Fe, N.M., said her husband is a retired soldier, and she wants U.S. troops home from Iraq.
“President Bush took our troops out there with no plan to get them out,” Baros said. “John Kerry would make more of an effort to bring our troops home.”
Carmen Soto, a 60-year-old Puerto Rican and registered Democrat who lives in Brooklyn, said she plans to vote for Bush because she is satisfied with the job he has done.
“He’s been a good president, and I think he’s got a better head on his shoulder than Kerry does,” she said. “He hasn’t taken anything away from me, and he hasn’t given me anything.”