Tucson Citizen
Friday, July 23, 2004

Hispanics favoring Kerry by 2-to-1, polls show

Citizen Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON - President Bush's support among Hispanic voters has dropped slightly since the 2000 presidential election, two polls released yesterday show.
An election poll of 786 registered Hispanic voters conducted by the Pew Hispanic Center and the Kaiser Family Foundation showed Bush far behind Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry by a margin of 62 percent to 32 percent in a head-to-head contest.

The other poll, a survey of 1,065 registered Hispanic voters in 11 states with the largest Hispanic electorates, showed Kerry with a commanding 2-to-1 advantage over Bush. It was sponsored by The Washington Post; Univision, the Spanish-language network; and the Tomas Rivera Policy Institute, a California-based independent think tank.

Although Hispanic voters make up a small percentage of the overall electorate, Bush and Kerry are aggressively courting them in this year's presidential race because they represent a significant percentage of voters in the swing states of Arizona (16 percent), Florida (14 percent), Nevada (13 percent) and New Mexico (40 percent).

Nationwide, nearly 7 million Hispanics are expected to go to the polls in November, up from 6 million in 2000, according to the Tomas Rivera Policy Institute.

The Bush campaign, which garnered 35 percent of the Hispanic vote in 2000, wants 40 percent this year. The Kerry campaign wants to do better than the record 72 percent President Clinton won in 1996.

"Bush is showing some signs of weakness," said Roberto Suro, the Pew Hispanic Center's director.

Suro said Hispanics are especially troubled by Bush's decision to go to war with Iraq, citing an earlier Pew-Kaiser poll of 2,288 Hispanics done between April and June. It was released yesterday with the election poll and had a margin of error of plus or minus 2.83 percentage points.

About 56 percent of those polled in the spring said they disapproved of Bush's handling of the Iraq situation. About 54 percent said they thought the Bush administration misled the American public before the war, and 62 percent said they did not think Bush has "a clear plan for bringing the situation in Iraq to a successful conclusion."

A majority of Hispanics, 54 percent, favored Bush's proposal to give illegal immigrants temporary visas to work in the United States. About 40 percent opposed the idea. But 84 percent preferred a proposal supported by Kerry that would allow foreign workers to become permanent residents when the temporary visa expires.

Another surprising finding in the larger of the Pew-Kaiser polls: Immigration ranked last among Hispanics as the most important issue facing the country. Education, the economy and health care topped the list.

Danny Diaz, a Bush campaign spokesman, dismissed all the polls, arguing that Hispanic voters don't know enough about Kerry to form an opinion.

"Senator Kerry hasn't accomplished anything for Hispanics," Diaz said. "Once we get the word out on his record in the Senate, Hispanic voters won't support him."

Laura Capps, a Kerry campaign spokesman, countered that the polls show "Kerry's optimistic message is resonating" with Hispanic voters.

"Hispanic voters are disappointed with President Bush's record of broken promises and empty rhetoric," she said.

The Washington Post-Univision poll had a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points. The smaller Pew-Kaiser election poll had a margin of error was 3.5 percentage points.