Obama reverses Latino approval rating—will he keep it?

Obama reverses Latino approval rating—will he keep it?

Washington : DC : USA | Feb 22, 2013 at 9:42 AM PST
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Immigration activist Elvira Arellano, who was deported from the US, holds a sign during a demonstration in Mexico City

President Obama’s job approval rating soared markedly over the past year among the Spanish-speaking US population. Obama's job approval rating is up nationwide. And Latinos completely reversed their opinion on Obama’s handling of immigration. A new survey by the Pew Research Center and USA TODAY revealed the numbers that define the trends.

In the last quarter of 2011, only 48 percent of Hispanics across the nation approved of Obama’s job performance, while 39 percent handed him a disapproval rating. During that time period, awareness and concern about the Obama administration's record on deportations ran high among Hispanics.

Since then, however, Obama’s approval among Hispanics has steadily grown. By the end of 2012, approval had risen to 75 percent. And, so far in the first quarter of 2013, approval has held at 73 percent. This compares to a slight improvement in Obama’s job approval among whites since 2011, from 36 percent to 41 percent. Meanwhile, among blacks, Obama's approval rating has remained steady, with 88 percent currently according approval.

Immigration turnaround

On immigration, there has been a complete turnaround in how Hispanics view Obama's handling of the issue. Today, more approve than disapprove--by a 63 percent to 27 percent margin. In November 2011, that margin was reversed: 28 percent of Hispanics approved of the job Obama was doing on immigration policy while 59 percent disapproved.

Overall, the general public is split on how the president is handling immigration policy----44 percent approve of how Obama is handling the issue compared with 43 percent who disapprove. However, approval is up 12 points from November 2011. This marks the first time in Obama's presidency that disapproval has not outweighed approval on immigration, and improved ratings from Hispanics fueled that change.

Can Obama hold it?

Obama cannot rest on his laurels. Deportations continue, despite recent efforts on the federal level to push an immigration reform agenda. Latino anguish continues despite an Obama immigration reform proposal that was leaked to the press last weekend.

At a Presidents Day gathering in Chicago, family members of immigrants who are currently facing deportation in detention --and of those already deported—called publicly for a moratorium on deportations while national debate continues on immigration reform. Last year more than 400,000 people were ordered to leave the country, a whopping record number. Those deportations created upheaval and trauma for the families and communities affected.

While immigration reform proposals vary, many of them leave out large segments of the 11 million unauthorized immigrants who are currently in the country. The DOMA Project, for instance, works to stop deportations of lesbian and gay couples. For them and other affected populations, a normal life is daily in jeopardy. A deportation leaves grief in its wake.

Deportation grieves children

The number of children with unauthorized immigrant parents has more than doubled since 2000, according to information compiled by the Migration Policy Institute. The removal of a parent to deportation produces grief for the children left behind that approaches the grief suffered from parental death.

The Obama administration's historically unprecedented record deportation rate directly affects future voters. As recently as 2010, most of the 5.5 million children with an unauthorized immigrant parent were US citizens by birth.

If immigration reform fails

Political hopes are raised high for immigration reform these days, but reform isn’t guaranteed. Immigration reform faces multiple political challenges that could block a successful bill reaching the president’s desk for a signature. But, should no measure toward immigration reform succeed, what then?

Public opinion after a failed attempt at immigration reform will not look kindly on those deemed responsible for the failure. When hopes are dashed, voters mobilize in response. Data from this week’s Pew report indicates that the Hispanic population, considered a lynchpin population in the 2012 elections, will be disappointed indeed.

Who would receive the wrath ensuing from failed immigration reform? Obama, serving his ultimate term as president, need not fear for his own re-election. But keeping the good favor of the Latino population will be critical to any candidate—indeed, to any political party—looking for success in the next voting cycle.

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Pew Hispanic Center

Chicago Sun Times

Wall Street Journal

Migration Policy Institute

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Latinos reverse job approval rating for Obama on immigration reform
At a rally, a participant bears the flags of both Mexico and the US. The sizeable Latino population currently has reversed its opinion on Obama's job performance as president. [file photo by author]
Billie Greenwood is based in Davenport, Iowa, United States of America, and is an Anchor on Allvoices.
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