Hispanic evangelicals moving to the Democrats

Christianity Today is reporting that the Republican Party’s hold on Hispanic evangelical votes is slipping, and the rhetoric about immigration is a leading cause. While this vote is small, it could make the difference in several swing states:

Nearly four in ten Hispanic voters and two-thirds of Hispanic evangelicals backed Bush in 2004—and those numbers were headed up for 2006. “Conservative projections had 53 percent of all Hispanics and 80 percent of born-again Latinos going Republican,” said Samuel Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference.

Then immigration came to the forefront of national discussion. Republicans generally pegged it a law-and-order issue and talked tough, leaving an opening for Democrats to appeal to Hispanic voters. “Democrats are saying, ‘Let’s talk about your family and your faith,'” Rodriguez said. “They’re saying, ‘The other side doesn’t want you.'”

In the 2006 midterm elections, Latino support for Republicans sank. “Exit poll numbers showed Hispanics shifted away from the Republicans,” said Luis Lugo, director of the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life. “Latinos gave 30 percent of their vote to Republican candidates, a 10-point swing.”

If the pattern continues, the resulting double-digit dive could mean millions more lost votes for the Republicans in 2008. Although Latinos will likely cast only 6.5 percent of the votes in November, according to Lugo, they may double that showing in swing states like Florida, New Mexico, and Colorado.

And the issue of immigration is creating a schism between white and Hispanic evangelicals:

White evangelicals and Hispanic evangelicals are deeply split on the issue. While white evangelicals have polled higher than the general population in considering immigrants a burden to society, for instance, nearly 60 percent of Hispanic evangelicals believe immigrants strengthen society.

“A divide is an understatement,” Rodriguez said of white and Hispanic evangelicals’ differing views. “The term is schism.”

Read it all here.

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