Hispanic voters, both nationally and here in Nevada, are poised to be a major voting block in the 2016 presidential race.
But what are the issues that matter most to them?
A new poll commissioned by Univision sought to find out.
Fernand Amandi with Bendixen & Amandi International conducted the poll. He said the biggest concern for Hispanic voters is the same as the whole electorate.
“It fundamentally comes down to jobs and the economy,” Amandi told KNPR's State of Nevada. “This group of voters is most impacted by their ability to have work and to stay in employed and obviously to make do with a little amount of money. So, they are very sensitive to the changes in the American economy.”
Amandi said that while the issue of jobs and economy is the most important to the electorate as a whole, it is the intensity of the importance that sets Hispanic voters apart.
He said 90 percent of those polled said it was a very important issue.
The issue that many people think tops the list is immigration and immigration reform. Amandi noted that while it is an important issue it is not "the most important."
“On the question of a pathway to citizenship, Hispanic voters that we asked say that the majority are more likely to support a candidate for president that advocates for a position that includes a pathway to citizenship, when it comes to a comprehensive immigration reform plan,” Amandi said.
He said jobs, education and health care all outweigh immigration, but he believes it is the rhetoric around immigration that makes it a hot button issue.
"A lot of individuals and a lot of people in the Hispanic community feel that the extreme right-wing, anti-immigration rhetoric tends to be code for anti-Hispanic rhetoric, and that’s why it has such traction,” Amandi pointed out.
He also said that while Hispanic voters are by definition citizens, many have a connection or correlation to someone who is undocumented, putting a personal spin on the issue.
Amandi said the Hispanic voters have and can make a big difference in elections. According to the poll, 92 percent of people said they were very likely to vote in 2016.
“That is a number that we’ve been tracking this segment of the electorate over many years really is a high-water mark, and I think it speaks to attention Hispanic voters are paying to the presidential contest,” Amandi said.
He pointed to the role the Hispanic community had in re-electing Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.) in 2010.
Most Hispanics in Nevada are aligned with the Democratic Party. In fact, there is a 40 point spread between Republicans and Democrats when it comes to Hispanic voters.
Amandi said that gap could erode if a Republican candidate shaped a message that spoke to the community's concern about jobs, education and health -- plus showed a softer stance on immigration reform.
He also believes any Democratic candidate should not try to distance herself or himself from President Obama.
“It would be a mistake not to run with President Obama when it comes to doing outreach towards Hispanics and Latino voters in Nevada,” Amandi said. The community gives high marks to the president both personally and for policies.
Fernand Amandi, Bendixen & Amandi International
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