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South Florida Sun-Sentinel

Poll: More Hispanics Identifying Selves As Political Independents

August 21, 2003
Copyright ©2003 South Florida Sun-Sentinel. All rights reserved.
Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune News Service.

WASHINGTON - The Hispanic vote is up for grabs as more members of the nation's largest minority group identify themselves as political independents, according to a new survey released Wednesday by The Latino Coalition, a business-oriented advocacy group.

The survey showed that a plurality of Hispanics - 40 percent - identify as Democrats and 20 percent say they are Republicans. But while the Republican numbers have held steady since the group's 2001 survey, the Democratic numbers are down from 55 percent two years ago. Independents have almost doubled in the same time span - to 19 percent.

The poll of 1,000 Hispanic adults across the country had a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percent and was conducted Aug. 11-16. The Latino Coalition is made up of business leaders and tends to favor Republican policies such as reforming Social Security by allowing private savings accounts.

"You're seeing a community that politically is up for grabs," said Robert de Posada, president of The Latino Coalition.

President Bush, who got 30-35 percent of the Hispanic vote in 2000, still enjoys strong support in the community. The survey showed 31 percent of Hispanics supporting Bush against a Democrat.

But de Posada cautioned that immigration issues could cause trouble for the president and Republicans in Congress. A full 87 percent of Hispanics support normalizing the status of illegal immigrants who have no criminal records.

Bush has come under fire from some Hispanics for his inability to work out an accord with Mexican President Vicente Fox to legalize millions of undocumented Mexican workers in this country. Many Hispanics also have been upset by the government's treatment of immigrants since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

"There is a litmus test on this issue right now, and I think the Republicans need to start looking at this issue," de Posada said.

While they represent a tiny subsample of the survey, only 46 percent of the 33 Cuban-Americans interviewed had a favorable rating of Bush. Thirty-nine percent held an unfavorable rating of the president, who in 2000 got 80 percent of the Cuban-American vote. If the tiny sample is accurate, it probably represents the backlash in Miami against the Bush administration for returning several groups of Cuban migrants to the island recently and for not being tough enough on Fidel Castro.

Another Republican candidate did not fare as well as Bush. In California's recall election, movie star Arnold Schwarzenegger got only 24 percent of the state's vote in a one-on-one race with his Democratic rival, Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante, who got 58 percent.

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