Mitt Romney is closing the gap on President Barack Obama among likely Hispanic Florida voters, a majority of whom say they’re not better off than four years ago, according to a new Florida International University/Miami Herald/El Nuevo Herald poll.
Obama is ahead of Romney 51-44 percent among Hispanics, a relatively narrow lead that could spell trouble for a Democratic campaign that’s counting on minority support as non-Hispanic white voters flock to the Republican ticket in droves.
In the rest of the country, however, it’s a different story for Obama when it comes to likely Hispanic voters.
The president wallops Romney 66-31 percent overall across the U.S., according to the poll’s national survey of 1,000 likely Hispanic voters. It was taken Oct. 10-11 along with the 720-voter poll in Florida.
The difference here: Cuban-American voters, who are overwhelmingly Republican and who appear to be increasingly excited about Romney’s campaign.
“What’s remarkable is the demographic split in Florida: Puerto Rican and Dominican and other Hispanic voters trust Obama. Cubans just don’t,” said Eduardo Gamarra, an FIU professor of Latin American studies who conducted the poll with his political research firm, the Newlink Group.
In the national and Florida surveys, Cuban voters consistently gave Obama low marks on handling the economy, immigration and foreign policy. Puerto Rican and Dominican voters said the opposite.
Momentum from Cuban voters could help other Republican candidates on the Florida ballot, particularly in South Florida.
Take out Cuban voters, and Obama wins Florida Hispanics 64 percent to Romney’s 33 percent, according to the poll, which has a 3.6 percent error margin.
Overall, 54 percent of Florida Hispanics said they were not better off than four years ago, compared to 46 percent who said they were. That’s not just a reflection of Cuban sentiment; it’s an indication of Florida’s unemployment rate, which is higher than the nation’s. And Hispanic unemployment is higher still. The number of Hispanic children living in poverty now exceeds the number of non-Hispanic white children, even though Hispanics are a minority.