Bush Doing Terribly with Hispanics
That's the real message of two polls of Hispanics recently released by the Pew Hispanic Center (PHC). Of course, some of the presss, in their typically bone-headed way, have played up the fact that in the second PHC poll, taken in early January, Bush polls better among Hispanics than he did in the first PHC poll, conducted in early December, before Saddam was captured.
Wow. That's a shocker. Bush got a bounce among Hispanics, just like he did among the general public. But does that mean he's in a "strong position" with Hispanics, as an AP story on these polls put it?
Hardly. A review of the data from the PHC polls indicates that Bush is in an amazingly weak position with Hispanics and, as his bounce dissipates, is likely to be facing a very skeptical Hispanic electorate during the 2004 election campaign.
Take the issue of Iraq. In the December 8-11 PHC poll, Bush's approval rating on Iraq among Hispanics was just 32 percent, with 57 percent disapproval. By comparison, in the public poll closest to the dates of the December PHC poll (CBS News/New York Times, December 10-13), Bush's approval rating on Iraq among the general public was 45 percent approval/47 percent disapproval.
In addition, Hispanics in the December PHC poll endorsed by 15 points the proposition that "the Bush administration deliberately misled the American public about how big a threat Iraq was to the US before the war began (53 percent to 38 percent). And a slight plurality of Hispanics (47 percent to 45 percent) said the US made "the wrong decision in using military force against Iraq". That compares to an analogous question in the CBS News poll mentioned above, where, by 64 percent to 28 percent, the general public said we did "the right thing in taking military action" and the exact same question in a mid-October Pew Research Center poll, where, by 60 percent to 33 percent, the public said we made the right decision in using military force against Iraq.
Finally, by 60 percent to 31 percent, Hispanics in the December PHC poll said the war in Iraq was not worth "the toll it has taken in American lives and other kinds of costs'. This compares to a 54 percent to 39 percent not-worth-it verdict among the general public on an analogous question in the CBS News poll.
In short, this poll documents that Hispanics, far from being patriotically enamored of the Iraq war, as has been erroneously asserted by some pundits, are actually far more critical of it than the general public. In fact, even in the January poll, since the post-Saddam capture increases in positive feelings about the Iraq situation among Hispanics are about equal to increases observed among the general public, Hispanics remain much more critical about Iraq than the public as a whole.
The same basic story can be observed in Hispanics' views about the economy: more negative views than the public as a whole before Saddam's capture, then an upward bounce in economic evaluations after Saddam's capture--but no larger an upward bounce than other polls have captured among the general public. As a result, despite the bounce, Hispanics continue to be signifcantly more negative than the public as a whole about the economy.
One last note on these polls. In the December poll, Bush's re-elect number among Hispanics was an abysmal 27 percent, compared to 56 percent for the Democratic candidate. That's a 29 point gap and with any reasonable allocation of undecideds that gap should, if anything, be considered wider. By comparison, in 2000, Bush received 35 percent support among Hispanics and lost them by 27 points.
And we're supposed to believe Bush is in a "strong position" with Hispanics? Maybe in some other universe.