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While Latinos as a group are more likely to vote for the president in the upcoming election – 69 percent say they will vote for Obama – a new study by the Pew Research Center shows that there are differences among Latino voter preferences based on religious affiliation. Latino evangelicals are evenly split as to which candidate they support, with 50 percent saying they will vote for Republican challenger Mitt Romney.
“Latino evangelicals are very socially conservative,” says Luis Lugo of the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life. "Even as the Latino community as a whole has moved on the issue of gay marriage - a small majority now support gay marriage - evangelical Latinos remain very staunchly opposed.”
Lugo says that at this point in the election cycle in 2008, Obama was making a better showing, with 60 percent of Latino evangelicals saying they were voting for the Democrat. But in an example of what Lugo describes as the “cross-pressured” nature of the group, they voted for George W. Bush in 2004.
“Politically speaking, Latino evangelicals are up for grabs,” says Lugo.
The reason this group hasn’t galvanized around one particular party consistently over time, according to Lugo, is because while they are socially conservative, they tend to think more like more Democratic-leaning Latinos when it comes to issues like immigration and the role of government.
So far Romney hasn’t quite made the inroads that Bush did with Latino Evangelicals. Lugo says this is for a variety of reasons.
“Social issues had more prominence in the campaign in 2004,” says Lugo. There was also the issue of immigration, with Bush presenting “a more comprehensive approach.”
Bush also gave the appearance of being friendlier to social programs, with his “compassionate conservative” style and partnerships with community and social service groups.Finally, because Bush was governor of Texas he had more experience dealing with Latino populations, says Lugo.