Looking at the results Wednesday morning, 2012 may best be described as the Status Quo Election. President Obama won re-election, the Democrats maintained their majority in the Senate, and the Republicans maintained their majority in the House of Representatives. Moreover, while some races are still undecided, it appears that both parties have held control of their respective chambers by roughly the same margin as before.
Clearly, the economy was the first issue on voters’ minds. According to an Associated Press exit poll, 59 percent of voters identified the economy as their top issue (Associated Press, Nov. 7, 2012) Those who felt the economy is improving (four out of 10 voters) tended to vote for President Obama, while those who felt the economy is worsening (three out of 10 voters) tended to vote for Governor Romney. (Id.)
Moreover, most voters (about 75 percent) perceived President Obama’s policies would more likely to help the middle class and poor. In contrast, 53 percent said Romney’s policies would favor the rich; 34 percent thought his policies would do more for middle-class America. (Id.)
President Obama also fared better among several demographics. Women, in particular, helped President Obama win re-election, voting 55 percent in favor of the President and only 44 percent in favor of Governor Romney. In addition, about 93 percent of African Americans and about 71 percent of Hispanics voted for the President. No doubt these results will lead many pundits to claim that Republicans have an “immigration position” problem that requires a whole-hearted embrace of amnesty.
However, polling conducted before the election shows that Hispanic voters, like voters across America, were focused on the economy. In fact, multiple polling firms reported that likely and registered Hispanic voters listed numerous other issues as being more important to them than immigration. According to a USA Today/Gallup poll released in June, only 12% of registered Hispanic voters stated that immigration policy was the issue most important to them, taking a backseat to “healthcare” (21%), “unemployment” (19%), “economic growth” (17%), and “the gap between the rich and the poor” (16%). (USA Today/Gallup Poll, June 25, 2012)
In September, Fox News Latino released a poll of likely Hispanic voters, in which 48% percent indicated the “economy” was their number one voting issue. The economy was followed by healthcare (14%), “education” (11%), and social issues (8%). Only six percent claimed that immigration was the most important issue to them when deciding who to vote for. (Fox News Latino Poll, Sept. 18, 2012)
In October, the Pew Hispanic Center released a poll showing similar results. Pew found that more registered Hispanic voters found the issues of “education” (55%), “jobs and the economy” (54%), “healthcare” (50%), and the “federal budget deficit” (36%) to be more important than the issue of immigration when deciding whom to vote for. Only 34% of registered Hispanic voters considered immigration to be “an extremely important” issue to them. (Pew Hispanic Center Poll, Oct. 11, 2012)
What does this mean for immigration reform? In the final days of the campaign, President Obama promised to tackle immigration in the first year of his second term. Now that the election results are in and it appears that the balance of power in Congress is largely the same, there is a very real chance that the President will push his amnesty agenda in the Democratically-controlled Senate. But the House of Representatives, which gained immigration enforcement advocates in 2010, will still present a serious challenge for the President’s agenda. Hopefully, enforcement-minded Republicans will see the voting patterns for what they are – economically based – and hold their ground against what will surely be increased pressure to pass amnesty legislation.
To see FAIR’s press releases on the 2012 election, click here.