- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 30, 2006

Democrats have made only “modest gains” among Hispanics during political battles this year over immigration reform, with 41 percent of those surveyed in a Democratic poll saying the issue will not affect how they vote in November.

Although the survey of 600 Spanish-speaking Hispanic voters by the New Democratic Network (NDN) showed a dramatic erosion in support for President Bush and Republicans since the immigration debate in Congress began, it found that Democrats have not made major advances with the nation’s largest minority group.

Democrats still “have a lot of work to do” to explain what they stand for, said a memo from the NDN’s Hispanic Strategy Center.

The poll’s results were released July 19. Key findings in the survey showed pockets of significant support for Republicans and Mr. Bush among parts of the Hispanic community.

In one of the poll’s findings, “while Democrats have made modest gains with this group, growing from 52 percent in 2004 to 59 percent, most of the movement this year has been away from Bush and the Republicans and not towards Democrats,” an NDN analysis said.

“… While consistently far ahead of Republicans, Democrats regularly under-perform their 59 percent electoral performance and 65 percent party favorability. This indicates that, while Democrats are well-regarded by this electorate, they are not well-defined,” the report said.

For example, despite the critical response of the electorate to the competing House and Senate immigration bills, “more Hispanics say that the immigration debate will not affect how they will vote this November — 41 percent — than say that it makes it more likely they will vote Democratic — 36 percent,” NDN said.

Moreover, despite substantial Democratic leads among Hispanics on most issues, particularly on the Iraq war, Republicans still draw more support on protecting national security and fighting the war on terrorism, the poll found.

Mr. Bush captured 40 percent of the Hispanic vote in the 2004 presidential election and since then, Ken Mehlman, who managed his re-election campaign before he became the Republican National Committee chairman, has made Hispanic outreach a major part of the RNC’s political agenda.

NDN said its analysis of the 18 percent of Hispanics who remain undecided “finds this group very favorable to President Bush and wary of Democrats.

“While unhappy with the direction of the country, this group will not be an easy one for Democrats to make substantial gains with,” the analysis said.

Among the findings with this group, 48 percent “tend to have a more favorable opinion of President Bush,” 53 percent have a favorable view of the Republicans, and 36 percent have an unfavorable view of the Democrats.

The survey of Spanish-dominant, registered Hispanic voters was conducted by LatinInsights for NDN between June 24 and July 1 and has a margin of error of plus or minus five percentage points.

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