Democrats have been counting on Hispanic dissatisfaction with the GOP's hard-line rhetoric on immigration as their ace in the hole with Hispanic voters. But many Hispanics are also unhappy with the Democrats' inability to get an immigration bill passed even though they control both houses of Congress and the White House. What's more, immigration isn't high on the list of priorities for Hispanic voters this election, ranking only fifth among seven issues tested (among all voters, immigration is an even lower priority, ranking 10th among 13 issues in another 2010 Pew poll).
A plurality of Hispanics, 47 percent, say they think that Democrats care about them, whereas only 6 percent think the GOP is concerned for their welfare, including only 18 percent of Republican Hispanics. But caring is one thing -- and delivering on policies that matter is another.
Like most Americans, Hispanics rank jobs, health care, and the federal budget deficit high on their list of priorities. But the issue that matters most to Hispanic voters is education -- which was ranked first by 58 percent of those polled. But when it comes to education, Democrats have shown little leadership in recent years. Nearly all the ideas for major school reform have come from Republicans, from charter schools to school vouchers to tying teacher pay to student performance. If Republicans were smart, they'd be reaching out to Hispanic voters on issues like this.
Democrats may have the hearts of Hispanic voters, but motivating them to vote is another matter. In the end, however, Hispanic voter apathy will hurt Hispanics more than it hurts either party. It will mean Democrats can continue to take them for granted, if a little less so because they may not show up when it counts. And it will mean Republicans don't have to bother appealing to them because they are less likely than other groups to vote.
Linda Chavez is chairman of the Center for Equal Opportunity and author of Betrayal: How Union Bosses Shake Down Their Members and Corrupt American Politics .
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