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Bush Polling High Among Hispanic Voters Support For Iraq War Grows
Bush Polling High Among Hispanic Voters
January 8, 2004
WASHINGTON President Bush starts this election year in a relatively strong position among Hispanics, who reacted favorably to the capture of Saddam Hussein, according to poll results released Thursday.
More than half, 54 percent, in the poll done for the Pew Hispanic Center in early January, said they think the president is doing a good job.
Almost four in 10, 37 percent, said they would like to see President Bush re-elected. Less than half in the poll, 47 percent, said they would prefer that a Democratic candidate win the election.
Those results are significantly better for Bush than in a poll taken by the same group right before the capture of Saddam.
"This shows serious inroads into what had previously been a traditionally Democratic constituency," said Roberto Suro, director of the Pew Hispanic Center. Suro said the poll shows where Hispanic opinion on Bush was just before his latest push to win over Hispanic support.
The January poll was taken just before Bush proposed a plan that could brighten his election-year prospects with Hispanic voters, a fast-growing part of the electorate. Bush on Wednesday proposed granting legal status - at least temporarily - for millions of illegal immigrants working in the United States.
Hispanics were divided about whether the president has a clear plan for bringing the situation in Iraq to a successful conclusion. And slightly more, by 50 percent to 40 percent, said the war in Iraq has not been worth the toll in American lives and other costs. In early December, they said the war in Iraq was not worth the toll by a 2-1 margin.
Pollster Sergio Bendixen said the level of support for Bush's re-election should not be overemphasized since the poll was of Hispanic adults, not Hispanic voters. But he said the level of support from Hispanics had been dropping through 2003, and definitely moved up over the last month.
"These two polls show the volatility of Hispanics and tend to reinforce those who feel Hispanics are a swing vote in the 2004 election," Bendixen said.
In the poll taken in early December, fewer than half of the Hispanics said Bush was doing a good job, and about a fourth said they would vote to re-elect him.
Hispanics were evenly split on his handling of the economy in the January poll, and a majority thought he made the right decision in using military force in Iraq. He improved his standing on both issues since early December.
Democrat Al Gore got 62 percent of the Hispanic vote in 2000, according to exit polls, while Bush got 35 percent.
Hispanics make up an increased share of the electorate in many states in the South and West that will be important in the general election, so any gains among Hispanics by Bush this year could be significant.
The two polls of 500 Hispanics each were conducted Dec. 8-11 and Jan. 2-4 by Bendixen and Associates and have margins of sampling error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.
Polls: Hispanic Support For Bush, Iraq War Grows
BY ELAINE DE VALLE
January 9, 2004
More Hispanics support the war in Iraq and the George W. Bush administration now than before Saddam Hussein was captured, but they still lag behind the general public's approval rating, results from two national surveys show.
A majority of Hispanics -- 54 percent -- said Bush was doing an ''excellent'' or ''good'' job when polled earlier this month by the Pew Hispanic Center.
The same question in a similar survey taken in December shows Bush had the approval of only about 46 percent of Hispanics. In both polls, the approval rating by Hispanics was several percentage points lower than the general population.
The widely-publicized capture also shifted the Hispanic community's stance on U.S. troops. Before Saddam was caught, more Latinos said troops should come home immediately, while a majority now say coalition forces should stay in Iraq.
But most Hispanics worry the president doesn't have a clear plan to withdraw from Iraq, and in both polls, 70 percent said the administration should concentrate more on the economy.
The combined results of two polls released Thursday -- one done before Saddam's capture on Dec. 13, and one conducted last week -- identify important changes in Hispanic attitudes toward Iraq, the economy and the presidential election, said Roberto Suro, director of the Pew Hispanic Center.
''This shows serious inroads into what had previously been a traditionally Democratic constituency,'' Suro said in a telephone conference call with journalists.
''There is sort of good news and bad news for President Bush,'' Suro said. ``There's a volatility in the Hispanic population in response to events in Iraq and that will be good news for the president as long as events go well.
``But it could clearly turn the other way.''
While only 27 percent of Hispanics said in December that they wanted to see Bush reelected, 37 percent of the January respondents said they would support his 2004 bid.
The numbers are not broken down geographically, so changes in the attitudes of Florida's Hispanic population could not be measured. But some Hispanic vote trend experts say South Florida's Hispanic support is stronger.
''In Miami in particular, I think support for the president and the war on terrorism is extremely high,'' said Alberto Milian, a Gulf War veteran and attorney who has served as a military analyst for the Spanish-language Univisión network in recent months.
''That's due to the fact that Cubans and Colombians and a lot of our other immigrants have had to deal with the ravages of terrorism historically,'' said Milian.
Sergio Bendixen -- president of the Coral Gables-based Bendixen & Associates, a public opinion research firm that specializes in the Hispanic population and did the fieldwork for both Pew Hispanic surveys -- said the results show Latinos can go either way.
''These two polls less than 30 days apart show volatility and tend to reinforce those who strongly feel that the Latino vote is a swing vote in American politics and is going to be a swing vote in the 2004 election,'' Bendixen said.
Teresa Martínez, who oversees the voter mobilization project of the National Council of La Raza, agreed that Hispanics are emerging as swing voters, but said Latinos tend to be concerned about the same issues as the general public.
''However, when we look at what weaknesses the president has, Latinos focus on the economy,'' Martínez said. ``The signal is loud and clear. Latinos have a positive approval rating for the president because they like him, he's very likable.
``But they are still looking at how he's doing at issues and policies and are concerned that he is still not doing enough for the economy.''
Milian says other factors also may have affected the attitudes of Hispanics toward the president and the war, beginning with the number of Hispanics fighting.
''Hispanics have traditionally been overrepresented in the military, particularly in the enlisted rank,'' Milian said.
``That unprecedented move to give 15,000 soldiers, by executive order, a special dispensation to expedite citizenship, I think that was important too.''