In the final stretch of the presidential campaign, both candidates are finally scrambling to capture the attention of the nation’s 25 million Hispanic voters. If Bronx Latinos are any indication, Republican challenger Mitt Romney may have lost that contest by a landslide.
An informal BronxInk survey of 42 Latinos did not find one potential voter who planned to support the GOP candidate. Ninety percent of respondents said they would vote for President Barack Obama, while 10 percent were undecided.
Some surveyed said Romney had gone out of his way to insult them. “Take my word, 90 percent of the Bronx is going for Obama,” predicted Alberto Colón, a 58-year-old Puerto Rican and retired warehouse worker, interviewed in East Tremont. “Romney offended the people of the Bronx. I don’t believe anything he says.”
Others were skeptical that the GOP contender had any real understanding of their lives. “If you were born in a golden cradle, it’s really likely that you won’t understand what it feels like to be poor,” said Angel Bruno, 67, Puerto Rican-born, who compared Obama to John F. Kennedy. “Obama had a humble childhood and therefore he isn’t indifferent to Latino suffering.”
Sidewalk interviews with residents were conducted on September 22 from the Pelham Parkway neighborhood to the Highbridge section of the Bronx. The 42 respondents ranged in age from 20 to 80. Eight were women and 34 were male. Those surveyed said they emigrated originally from Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Honduras, Puerto Rico, El Salvador, Ecuador and México. Hispanics represent 54 percent of the population in the Bronx.
Results echoed a national USA TODAY/Gallup Poll released on June 24, that found Obama leads among 66 percent of Hispanics, compared to Romney’s 25 percent. In 2008, Obama won 67 percent of Latinos, while Republican challenger John McCain brought in 31 percent.
On Monday, Sept. 17, Mitt Romney addressed business leaders at the United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, saying he is “convinced that the Republican Party is the rightful home for Hispanic Americans.”
However, the Republican Party’s hard line immigration policies and Romney’s support for Arizona’s immigration law, might explain why those surveyed in the Bronx view him cautiously. Eight-two percent said Barack Obama better understands the needs and problems of immigrants.
For Francisco Almaguer Cruz, a 54-year-old Cuban, Mitt Romney is not an option for immigrants. “You have to be crazy to vote for Romney. He doesn’t care about the poor.”
Hispanics strongly favor Obama in general. Eighty-eight percent of those surveyed said they have a favorable image of Obama, while 51 percent expressed an unfavorable view of Romney.
Although President Obama in his first term in office did not introduce the immigration reform he promised, over 71 percent of the survey participants approve of the way he has handled immigration.
Raúl Lopez, a 44-year-old Mexican immigrant who has been struggling during the last three years to find a job, believes Obama inherited a tattered economy that has kept him from paying attention to immigration reform. “We have to give him more time,” said Lopez. “Four years are not enough to fix the immigration system.”
Most said they were impressed by Obama’s recent policy decision to defer deportation of undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States as children. Over half of the surveyed said they believe Obama when he says if elected again, he will continue to reform immigration policies.
Still, health care remains the top concern of Latino voters in the Bronx, more than immigration policies. Thirty-three percent selected health care as their top concern, followed by employment, and then immigration. According to a Gallup Poll, Hispanics put healthcare and all economic issues before immigration.
Many surveyed accused both candidates of pandering to Hispanics. Bronx Hispanics like Reina Ramirez, 54, cast doubt on the candidates’ real commitment to the community. “Behind their promises is a strategy to win votes,” said Ramirez. “They just want to pretend that we’re important because they need our vote.”