“You’ve just abandoned the Reagan Democrats with this amnesty bill. It was the loss of working class voters in swing states that cost us the 2012 election, not the Hispanic vote…. You disrespect Hispanics with your assumption that they desire ignoring the rule of law.”
— Former Alaska governor Sarah Palin (R) in a Facebook post titled “Great Job, GOP Establishment, June 28, 2013
Given how many variables can affect a national election, it is sometimes foolhardy to suggest one group or another swung the election. For instance, President Obama and former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney split 49-49 percent among heterosexuals, while Obama overwhelmingly (76-22 percent) won the votes of gays. But just focusing on that fact would ignore the efforts made by Obama to reach out to other groups to build his winning coalition.
Palin’s comment, posted in response to bipartisan passage of a comprehensive immigration bill in the Senate, struck us as interesting because it assumed Romney lost the so-called Reagan Democrats and that Hispanic voters do not favor a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants. What do the data show? (We were assisted by Scott Clement, analyst at The Washington Post’s Capital Insight, in finding some of these data.)
First of all, there have been a whole series of polls asking Hispanics about their views on overhauling immigration laws. Excluding advocacy polls with loaded questions, there is a consensus that Hispanics overwhelmingly support a path to citizenship. Here are two key samples:
Voter exit poll, 2012: 77 percent of Hispanics believe illegal immigrants should be offered a chance to apply for legal status.
WSJ-NBC poll, April 2013: 82 percent of Hispanics either strongly favor or somewhat favor a pathway to citizenship.
The 2012 exit poll of voters also found that Americans, by a margin of 65 to 29 percent, believe illegal immigrants should be offered a chance to apply for legal status. The WSJ-NBC poll found 64 percent of all Americans favor a pathway to citizenship.
Okay, so a core part of Palin’s assumption is just simply wrong. What about her notion that the loss of “working class voters” in swing states cost the GOP the election? That is a bit more fuzzy, in part because it depends on the definition of “working class” — Clement says there are a dozen different ways to define the term — but Palin’s reasoning is also debatable.