(Jim Clark) – The official final census figures are out. Between 2000 and 2010, Nevada was one of the nation’s fastest growing states despite the recession-caused negative growth over the last 3 years. In Nevada, Latinos increased 82% while all other ethnicities combined (including the fast growing Asian and Pacific Islander cohort) grew onle 23%. Latinos now constitute 27% of Nevada’s population.
Latino Decisions, a think tank headquartered at the University of Washington, does constant polling and analysis, breaking down the results state by state so the data are useful. In April, they found that 17.3% of Nevada’s registered voters are Latinos and that there are an additional 101,850 Latinos eligible to vote but not registered.
So you would think that when the Nevada GOP gathered in Sparks earlier this month to select a candidate to run for Dean Heller’s seat and to elect a new Republican Central Committee chair there might have been some discussion about these demographic trends and what adjustments the Nevada Republican Party should make if it wants to avoid permanent minority status.
You would think so, but that’s not what happened. Of the 199 party faithful who came from all over Nevada for this meeting only one asked GOP chair candidates if they had a plan to reach out to minorities. “Oh yes,” came one reply, “Who was that lady who talked to us earlier? Elyse? Was that her name?” Yep, Elyse Monroy is president of Nevada Latinos for Prosperity, which was started three months ago and exists only in Washoe County. That’s not going to cut it for the whole state. Leadership needs to lead here.
Other interesting results from Latino Decisions/ImpreMedia polls include a finding that Nevada is one of four states where the Latino vote will drive the 2012 election outcome. The think tank’s analysts have even measured the affinity of Latino voters for both the Democratic and Republican Parties finding (not surprisingly) that Latinos will vote for candidates of the party that is more welcoming. In a poll released in early June, 48% gave Democrats good marks for outreach while 38% said Democrats were indifferent or hostile. Only 12% believe the GOP is welcoming while 72% rate the GOP as uncaring or hostile. It seems to me that if the GOP reached out to the 38% who give Democrats marginal to poor marks they could build their 12% support up to 50%. That’s how elections are won.
An even more interesting poll of Hispanic voters was released in late June showing that their top issues are: jobs and the economy (42%), immigration reform (40%), housing and mortgages (34%), family values (17%) and gun rights (13%). No other issue scored above single digits.
Responses to ideological questions showed a potential treasure trove of Republican votes among Latinos. To fix the economy, respondents preferred lower taxes to more spending by a margin of 51% to 11%.
A whopping 70% of the sample described themselves as either “middle of the road” (28%), “somewhat conservative” (27%) or “very conservative” (15%); left-leaning Latinos were divided between “somewhat liberal” (17%) and “very liberal” (8%).
The final ideological question was: “If you had to pick, do you think of yourself as closer to the Republican or Democratic Party?” 33% responded Democrat, 28% Republican and 29% said neither.
My fellow Republicans, we have here a voting cohort where 70% describe themselves as moderate to conservative and only one-third self-identify as Democrats, the balance splitting between the GOP and independents. Yet only 12% feel the Republican Party welcomes them.
Can anyone figure out where the problem lies here?
(Jim Clark is President of Republican Advocates, a vice chair of the Washoe County GOP and a member of the Nevada GOP Central Committee. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)