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Study: Latinos support Democrats but not enthusiastic about election

By the CNN News Wire Staff
People arrive to vote at the Albright United Methodist Church November 4, 2008 in Phoenix, Arizona.
People arrive to vote at the Albright United Methodist Church November 4, 2008 in Phoenix, Arizona.
  • Pew study: Nearly two-thirds of Latinos support Democrats; 22 percent back GOP
  • Only about a third of Latinos say they have given next month's election "a lot of thought"
  • About half of voters in general have given the election "a lot of thought"
  • The study was conducted by the nonpartisan Pew Hispanic Center research organization

Washington (CNN) -- Latino support for Democratic candidates remains strong, with 65 percent of registered Hispanic voters saying they plan to vote for the Democrat in their congressional district in next month's midterm elections, the Pew Hispanic Center said in a report Tuesday.

But Latino voters appear less motivated than other voters. About one-third of Latino voters say they have given this election "a lot of thought," while half of U.S. registered voters say they have, Pew said.

In a further challenge to Democrats, the nationwide Pew poll found that Republican Latino registered voters may be more likely to vote than Democrats. About 44 percent of Latino Republicans say they have given the election quite a lot of thought compared with 28 percent of Latino Democrats, the Pew report said.

"This partisan gap is consistent with survey findings of the full population of registered voters," said the report by Mark Hugo Lopez, associate director of the Pew Hispanic Center.

The study finds that while two-thirds of Latino voters support the Democrats, 22 percent back the Republican candidate.

Latinos overwhelmingly supported the Democrats in the 2008 presidential election, with Barack Obama getting 67 percent of the Hispanic vote and John McCain garnering 31 percent.

Likewise, the report said, 69 percent of Latino voters supported Democratic candidates in 2006 congressional races while 30 percent supported Republican hopefuls.

"Even in 2004, a year when Republicans won a greater share of the Latino vote in the presidential election than at any time since the 1980s, nearly six in 10 (58 percent) Latino voters supported Democrats John Kerry and John Edwards," the report said.

Latino support for Obama remains strong, the survey found. Nearly two-thirds of Latino registered voters said they approve of his job performance, well above the 47 percent of all U.S. registered voters who say they approve.

"Yet when asked about the effect of his administration's policies on Hispanics, Latino registered voters are divided," Pew said. "More than half (51 percent) say his policies have had no effect on Latinos, while one in four (26 percent) say they have been helpful to Latinos and 13 percent say they have been harmful."

The study also reveals that the Democratic Party continues to hold a large advantage in party identification among Latino registered voters. Sixty-two percent of Latino registered voters said they identify with or lean toward the Democratic Party, Pew said, while 25 percent say the same for the Republican Party.

A reason for the support for Democrats may be that the party is seen as having more concern for Latinos.

"Nearly half (47 percent) of Latino registered voters say this about the Democratic Party -- down from 55 percent in 2008, but similar to the share on this question expressed by Latinos for much of the past decade," Pew said.

"In contrast," the report said, "very few see the Republican Party as more concerned about Latinos than the Democratic Party -- just 6 percent of all Latino registered voters and 18 percent of Republican Latino registered voters say this."

The survey also found that Latinos are less negative than other voters about the direction of the country. Fifty-nine percent of Latino registered voters said they are dissatisfied with the country's direction, while 73 percent of all U.S. registered voters say the same, Pew said.

Latino support could be significant for both major parties because Hispanics represent a growing portion of the electorate. According to a Pew Hispanic Center analysis of Census Bureau data, Latino voters constituted 7.4 percent of all voters nationwide in 2008, up from 6 percent in 2004.

Tuesday's report is titled "Latinos and the 2010 Elections: Strong Support for Democrats; Weak Voter Motivation."

The findings for the report came from a national bilingual telephone survey of 1,375 Latinos ages 18 or older, including 618 registered voters, conducted from August 17 through September 19 by the Pew Hispanic Center. The sampling margin for the whole sample is plus or minus 3.3 percentage points.

The Pew Hispanic Center is a nonpartisan research organization that does not take positions on policy issues. It is part of the Pew Research Center, a nonpartisan institute based in Washington that is funded by The Pew Charitable Trusts, a Philadelphia-based public charity.