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PPP: FL backs procitizenship-path candidates 49-29 percent. GOP voters? Not so much.

@MarcACaputo

Florida’s Hispanic voters, the fastest-growing segment of the state’s electorate, are the most likely to support candidates who back a path to citizenship for those illegally in the country, a new poll from a Democratic-leaning firm has found.

Seven in 10 Hispanic voters said they’d be more likely to vote for a pro-pathway candidate, compared to 49 percent of African-Americans and 47 percent of non-Hispanic whites, the survey from Public Policy Polling shows.

Overall, 49 percent of Florida voters overall said they’d back a pro-pathway candidate and only 29 percent said they’d be less likely to do so.

But the poll also indicates that Florida congressional support for an immigration-reform bill is no sure thing due to Republican concerns with a pathway to citizenship. Republican members of Florida’s congressional delegation outnumber Democratic members by a 17-10 split.

Overall, the poll also indicated that large majorities of voters supported immigration-reform tenets because they believed it would keep communities safe and that they supported keeping families together, regardless of sexual orientation.

“We are glad to confirm that a great majority of Floridians support immigration reform with a pathway to citizenship,” Kathy Bird-Caicedo, activist with the liberal-leaning Florida New Majority, which funded the PPP poll with Project New America.

The poll, which surveyed slightly more Republicans than Democrats statewide last month, was released Thursday and has an error margin of 3.9 percent. The poll used interactive voice-response technology, known as a “robo poll.”

Statewide, the poll showed, only 38 percent of Republicans said they’d be more likely to back pro-pathway politicians, compared to 41 percent who said they’d be less likely.

The numbers help explain why Republican House members are less-likely to back a citizenship pathway than Democrats because it carries more of a political risk of drawing a Republican primary challenger in an election.

“No matter how you might color it, amnesty is amnesty," Rep. C.W. Bill Young, R-Indian Shores, said, summing up opposition.

But comments like that also concern Republican leaders in Florida and the nation. The electorate is becoming less white, and Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney lost a large percentage of the Hispanic vote to President Obama.

Many Republicans blame Romney’s tone and stances on immigration for the growing Hispanic opposition to the GOP. They worry that the party stands less of a chance at winning statewide elections or future congressional races.

Aside from the statewide poll, Public Policy Polling examined four Republican-held House seats in Florida and found varying levels of tepid or relatively small support for a citizenship path by Republican voters.

In Rep. Dan Webster’s Orlando-based district, anti-pathway candidates essentially have a 4-percentage point advantage among Republicans. But, after factoring in all voters, pro-pathway politicians enjoy a 17-point advantage overall.

David Winkler, research director and Project New America, said Webster needs to consider the changing demographics of his district.

“He may have concern about his GOP base. But he needs to have an eye on the general electorate,” Winkler said. “This is not an issue where your base is completely opposed to it. They’re split down the middle. And the rest of the public is with comprehensive reform.”

Republicans are less opposed, or nominally in favor, of a pro- pathway candidate in the other districts polled:

* In Rep. Gus Bilirakis’s Tampa Bay-based district, anti-pathway candidates essentially have a 1-percentage point advantage among Republicans. But, after factoring in all voters, pro-pathway politicians would enjoy a 25-point advantage.

* In Rep. Dennis Ross’s Lakeland-based district, anti-pathway candidates essentially have a 4-percentage point disadvantage among Republicans. But, after factoring in all voters, pro-pathway politicians see support jump to a 26-point advantage.

* In Rep. Tom Rooney’s Stuart-based district, anti-pathway candidates essentially have a 12-percentage point disadvantage among Republicans. But, after factoring in all voters, pro-pathway politicians see support jump to a 28-point advantage.

In the congressional districts and in the state overall, the poll also shows that immigration-reform advocates and opponents are deadlocked when it comes to the issue of the economy – the top issue in Florida.

When asked if immigration reform will improve the economy, 38 agreed and 38 percent disagreed.

Only Democrats agreed immigration reform would be an economic help, with 60 percent saying yes and 18 percent saying no.  But only 28 percent of independents agreed while 50 percent disagreed.

Republican opposition was strongest: 22 percent agreed and 52 percent disagreed.

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