By Janis Bowdler, Director, Wealth-Building Policy Project, NCLR
The exit polls have made it clear: the economy was far and away the most important issue for voters in this election. And the same is true for Latino voters. But an election eve poll released earlier today by NCLR and partner impreMedia shows that the economic issues which matter most to Hispanic voters differ in some ways from the economic priorities of other voters. This is something that the next president and Congress need to keep in mind as they develop their agendas for 2013 and beyond.
According to a recent NCLR report, Latino unemployment is still stuck in the double digits (11.5%). Meanwhile, 17% of Latinos are facing foreclosure or have already lost their home, 31% have no health insurance, and one in four is living in poverty. So it is no wonder that Hispanic voters went to the polls hungry for candidates who shared their views about how to improve the economy.
This thirst for an economic champion played out in battleground states, where more than half of Latino voters said that economic issues were their highest priority and the vast majority voted for President Obama. In Nevada, where Latinos make up an estimated 15% of the electorate, an impreMedia/Latino Decisions election eve poll of Latino voters found that 80% planned to vote for Obama. In this state, more than one-third of Latinos have lost their home or were in foreclosure proceedings.
In Ohio, where Obama won the coveted 18 electoral votes by less than 100,000 ballots, 30% of Hispanics live in poverty. The same election eve poll said that 82% of the Latino electorate was going to vote for the president in Ohio. Orlando, Florida, where Hispanic votes were a hot commodity, has the second highest rate of unemployment among Latinos (16.6%), twice than that of Whites. In the end, 58% of Latino Floridians voted for the president.
On deficit reduction, a plurality of Latinos believes in a balanced approach that includes tax increases and spending cuts (42%), while another 35% support raising revenue by asking the richest in our nation to pay more. As for health care, 61% of Latinos believe the federal government has a role to play in ensuring that people have health care and that the Affordable Care Act should stay in place.
This election was about jobs and the economy. But for the Latino community, that meant supporting candidates who offer balanced policies with shared responsibility and a clear role for the government to act.