Donald Lambro

WASHINGTON -- One of the unreported findings in a recent Democratic poll of Hispanics is that their party has made only "modest gains" among this pivotal minority voting group.

It's a given that Republican support among Hispanic voters overall, 40 percent of whom voted for President Bush in the 2004 elections, has taken a nosedive in the wake of the congressional battle over immigration and the GOP's crackdown on illegal aliens.

But what is not widely known or understood is that there's still a lot of support among Hispanic voters for Bush and the Republicans, particularly among those for whom Spanish is the dominant language, especially on some core political issues.

This is what I found when I dug deeply into the numbers produced by a national survey of 600 Spanish-speaking Hispanic voters conducted during the last week of June by the New Democratic Network, an influential party-advocacy group. One of the poll's most unexpected findings is that the Democrats have not made the major advances across the spectrum of the nation's biggest minority group that many believe. In fact, the poll concluded that Democrats still "have a lot of work to do" to explain what they stand for, according to a background memo from NDN's Hispanic Strategy Center.

The poll's results were released July 19, but some key findings showed pockets of significant support for Republicans and for the president among important parts of the Hispanic community -- findings that were not clearly reported or were ignored altogether.

One of the findings is that "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 toward Democrats," the NDN polling analysis said.

"In a detailed issue battery, while consistently far ahead of Republicans, Democrats regularly underperform their 59 percent electoral performance and 65 percent (Democratic) party favorability. This indicates that while the Democrats are well regarded by this electorate, they are not well-defined," the memo said.

For example, despite the anger the House and Senate immigration bills have ignited in the Hispanic electorate at large, "more (Spanish-dominant) Hispanics say 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," the memo said.

Moreover, while Democrats lead Republicans among these Hispanics by large margins on most issues, particularly on the Iraq war, Republicans beat them on the key issues of national security, fighting terrorism and on supporting small businesses.

Donald Lambro

Donald Lambro is chief political correspondent for The Washington Times.