A new poll released by Pew Hispanic Center today details the latest conundrum President Obama faces in his bid for reelection. For Obama, the good news is that Latinos, a key electorate both candidates are doing their darndest to impress, support the president over GOP presidential hopeful Mitt Romney by a wide margin of 69 to 21 percent. The bad news for Obama is that Latinos are much less likely than the general population to say they’re certain they’ll come out to vote come November 6.
Experts have called Latinos a “sleeping giant” in the electoral game; the Latino population in the U.S. is growing fast, and the number of eligible voters has increased by four million since just 2008, making Latinos 11 percent of the electorate, up from 9.5 in 2008. But as it is, a disproportionately small fraction of eligible Latino voters actually vote; Pew found that 77 percent of respondents are certain they’ll turn out to the polls, compared to 89 percent of the general population.
All this should give new meaning to Obama’s latest overture to Latinos. In a political ad released this week featuring him speaking (some decent-sounding, according to Colorlines staffers with the expertise to know) Spanish, Obama hailed a segment of the undocumented youth population known as DREAMers.
He leaves the policy talk out of the quick ad, praising instead DREAMers’ fine character and exemplary values. He says:
In the young people known as the DREAMers, I see the same qualities that Michelle and I try to instill in our daughters. They respect their parents. They study to better themselves. And they want to contribute to the only country they know and love. As a father, they inspire me. As the President, their courage has reminded me that no obstacle is too big and that no road is too long.
Not everyone was moved by the President’s words though. “He’s just trying to get the Latino vote,” said Veronica Gomez, a young undocumented immigrant who spoke to Colorlines from the side of a highway she and other undocumented youth are walking as part of their Campaign for an American DREAM, a cross-country walk to raise awareness about the continued need for the federal DREAM Act.
Earlier this year Gomez and Javier Hernandez, another young undocumented immigrant, shut down Obama’s campaign office in Denver for nearly a week while demanding the president exercise some of his authority to bring some relief to young immigrants. Two months later, Obama announced his administration would institute a two-year protection from deportation for some undocumented youth who would have been eligible for the DREAM Act, a narrow legalization bill for undocumented youth who clear a host of hurdles. The DREAM Act, which has been around for over a decade, narrowly failed in the Senate after passing the House in 2010.
“[Obama]’s said it numerous times, ‘I support DREAMers, I support DREAMers, I support DREAMers,’” Gomez said, “But with deferred action not all DREAMers qualify for it, and at the end of the day we’re still undocumented.”
Gomez said for her, it was difficult to reconcile this small reprieve against Obama’s record-setting deportation spree. During his administration, Gomez stressed, Obama’s deported more people than any other president, and more people in three years than President George W. Bush did in both his terms.
But, Gomez said, “It’s a good effort on his part. I mean, he did it in Spanish.”