Many suspected that the Arizona immigration law would backfire on Republicans, particularly with Hispanic voters, but we didn’t have definitive proof until this polling data from PPP.
When we polled Colorado in early March Michael Bennet and Jane Norton were tied. Last week we found Bennet with a 3 point lead. One of the biggest reasons for that shift? Bennet went from leading Norton by 12 points with Hispanic voters to a 21 point advantage. That large shift in a Democratic direction among Hispanics mirrors what we saw in our Arizona Senate polling last month- Rodney Glassman went from trailing John McCain by 17 points with them in September to now holding a 17 point lead.
Hispanics in the Mountain West are leaning much more strongly toward the Democrats since the Arizona law was passed. The big question then becomes whether there are white voters who are going to go Republican this fall who wouldn’t have if that bill hadn’t been passed. We don’t see any evidence of that happening yet- Bennet and Glassman are both doing better with white voters than they were before as well, although not to the same degree that they’ve improved with Hispanics.
I don’t know if Glassman or whoever the Democratic nominee in Arizona becomes will be able to overtake John McCain or J.D. Hayworth in the fall (though Hayworth is ripe for the picking), but Democratic fortunes in Colorado have definitely been boosted. Seems that Hispanics don’t particularly like being singled out for profiling. Imagine that.
As Tom Jensen correctly points out, even if majorities support the Arizona law, they aren’t going to the polls specifically to vote for candidates who support it. Yet this data does show that Hispanics may turn out for Democrats as a result, where they may not have been as enthusiastic otherwise.
As for whether national Democrats will look to capitalize on this, it’s just not looking that likely. They may take another stab at Dick Durbin’s DREAM Act, which would allow undocumented students brought to this country by their parents, with no say in the matter, to remain in America and get a path to citizenship if they go to college or enlist in the armed forces. Immigration advocates are pushing to at least try to pass the DREAM Act as a fallback, if a comprehensive reform doesn’t materialize this year. Durbin reportedly doesn’t want to push the DREAM Act at the expense of a comprehensive bill, but there will probably be a moment when it becomes clear that CIR isn’t happening.