- The Washington Times - Friday, January 17, 2003

President Bush's strategy for enlarging the Republican share of the Hispanic vote has been misdirected, a new study suggests.
An analysis by the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) of 2002 Election Day polling in 10 states saw evidence that Hispanics were not a distinct voting bloc but tended to vote the same way non-Hispanics voted.
Voting behavior of people who identified themselves to pollsters as being of Hispanic or Latino origin appears to correlate more with income and education than with ethnicity, said University of Maryland political scientist James G. Gimpel, who authored the study of Fox News' Election Day polling.
The study also shows that Hispanics who turned out for the midterm elections had higher income and education levels than Hispanics as a whole, and that lower- and middle-income Hispanics turned out in fewer numbers than in 2000.
Mr. Gimpel said that suggests that Republicans would do better in the short term to focus "their efforts on targeting and mobilizing Latino voters who have voted their way in the past" rather than trying to fashion policies that appeal to Hispanics in general.
Led by Mr. Bush and his chief political adviser, Karl Rove, the Republican Party has been trying to make itself more attractive to Hispanics, the fastest-growing segment of the electorate.
"If President Bush gets the same share of the total vote in 2004 that he did among all groups in 2000, then because of minority growth, we lose the Electoral College and [lose] the popular vote by nearly 3 million votes," said Matthew Dowd, who was in charge of polling for the 2000 Bush campaign.
For that reason, Republicans will have to increase their share of Hispanic voters to remain competitive. The White House has been floating proposals such as a new program for guest workers from Mexico, another round of limited amnesty for illegal aliens, and even a scheme to give Social Security benefits to noncitizen workers.
These proposals have not satisfied the Hispanic interest groups that are allied with the Democratic Party and that strongly criticize the administration and Republicans in general for being "anti-immigration."
The proposals, however, have irritated some conservatives in Mr. Bush's electoral base, who see such measures as pandering that puts politics ahead of the rule of law.
Nor did such Hispanic outreach produce much evidence of a resulting Republican surge during the November midterm election, according to Mr. Gimpel's analysis of Fox News polls from Texas, Florida, New Jersey, New Hampshire, Arkansas, Colorado, Georgia, Minnesota, Missouri and South Dakota.
In each state, there was at least one competitive race for U.S. senator or governor.
Republicans like Mr. Dowd saw signs of progress in those elections.
"The Republican Party in 2002, based on postelection polling, received between 38 percent and 39 percent of the Hispanic vote, which is a high watermark in midterm elections and three to four points higher than in 2000," he said. "So progress has begun."
"Another thing to keep in mind is that as governor of Texas, George W. Bush doubled his share of the African-American vote from the 1994 race to the 1998 re-election contest," Mr. Dowd added.
But Mr. Gimpel, author of the CIS study, saw no such progress, arguing that the Hispanic vote for Republican Senate candidates was "no more impressive than in previous years," or about a third of the total Hispanic vote.
Mr. Gimpel, however, said that the 46 percent Hispanic vote for Republican governors may seem "impressive" and appear to be "ostensible evidence that Republicans have made inroads."
In fact, he argued, "to the extent that there was any improvement in the Republican performance among Latinos, it came at the expense of turnout. Basically turnout among Latinos was very low, so only the better-educated and more-affluent Latinos who have a natural affinity for the Republican Party were showing up at the polls."
"That kind of improvement is very different form the kind that Republican strategists and campaign consultants are talking about," he said. "They talk about using policy initiatives and Spanish-language advertising and other things to convert Latinos to the Republican Party. But the ones who came out to vote Republican last November were the same ones who have always voted Republican."


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