Latinos Helped to Seal Obama’s Re-Election, Polling Firm Says in Election Analysis

It has been more than a month since Barack Obama was re-elected President of the United States, and the discussion online and in the news continues to be the influence that Latinos had in how that Tuesday in November played out.  According to Latino Decisions, a polling firm, 75 percent of Latinos who went to the polls voted for Obama — the highest percentage of support from the Latino community that any presidential candidate has ever received.  The estimated 12 million Latinos who voted not only showed up to the polls in the states that many already associate with having a large Latino population, but in cities, suburbs, and rural communities all over the United States.


All this raises questions, such as: What does this means for the policy issues that are most important to Latino communities, and how will the political parties respond to the nation’s changing demographics?

The San Francisco-based Latino Community Foundation brought the discussion to the community on Dec. 6 by hosting an event to recap the election and the Latino influence on the outcome. 

Dr_Gary_Segura“What are we going to do proactively?” Latino Community Foundation Executive Director Raquel Donoso asked, referring to building on the election’s momentum both in California and nationally. She asked the question in opening the event, which was the latest in the Latino Community Foundation’s “Community Conversaciones” series.  The Latino foundation has been a supporting organization of the San Francisco Foundation since 2002.

After Donoso’s remarks, Dr. Gary Segura, a professor at Stanford University and founder of Latino Decisions gave a detailed analysis of the election.  A panel of nonprofit leaders then discussed how they are giving voice to Latinos in their communities.  

The participants left the room energized and empowered with many powerful ideas to take back to their organizations.  Here are three of the major takeaways:

1. A watershed moment:  For the first time, Latino voters can claim to have been a decisive factor in the outcome of a presidential election.  If Latinos had split their vote evenly, Obama would have lost the popular vote.  In fact, to win the popular vote, Romney only needed 38 percent of Latinos to vote Republican, according to Latino Decision’s analysis.  Dr. Segura also showed that the policy positions of the Republican Party influenced how Latinos voted.  For instance, in an election eve poll conducted by Latino Decisions, 31 percent of Latinos said they would be more likely to vote for Republicans, if the GOP had taken a role in passing comprehensive immigration reform with a path to citizenship. 

2. Latino priorities include the economy and immigration:  In the same poll, Latino Decisions asked, “What are the most important issues facing the Latino community that politicians should address?”  The economy and immigration were most frequently the top two responses (53 percent and 35 percent respectively). When the poll asked about specific policy issues, responses included: 77 percent of Latinos believe that tax increases are necessary to address the deficit, with a majority of those saying that a mix of tax increases and spending cuts is the best approach.  When asked about President Obama’s Deferred Action Policy for young undocumented migrants, 58 percent of Latinos said it made them more enthusiastic to vote for Obama.

3. Grassroots organizations are the hope:  The panel discussion after Dr. Segura’s informative presentation gave his numbers a real-world context.  Eddie Carmona of Faith in Action; Ana Cecilia Perez of, and Jakada Imani of Ella Baker Center for Human Rights talked about the programs they are working on and how they were involved in the 2012 election.  Faith in Action reached thousands of Latinos in the Central Valley of California, encouraging them to vote, and leveraged social media to inspire Latinos to vote, especially Latino Millennials.  Mr. Imani shared his insights into how nonprofits can work with Washington to achieve policy change.

The audience participation during the panel opened up the floor to many issues, including immigration, gay rights, and incarceration, among others. The diversity of topics reflected that the room was filled with Latinos who were passionate and working in multi-issue organizations. It is the grassroots organizations working in the Latino community that are in the forefront, promoting civic participation and affecting policy changes.  They have the reach and the will to engage the culturally diverse and increasingly young Latino population.  The event affirmed that, in order to see social change for Latino communities, we need to strengthen the grassroots organizations working for that change.