Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Hispanics front and center in 2012 election

As Mitt Romney begins his etch-a-sketch moves on immigration issues, President Obama launches Latinos for Obama and the Supreme Court hears the challenge to Arizona's racist immigration law, there's no doubt that - at least for now - the Hispanic vote is front and center in this year's election.

But there are a couple of stories that aren't hitting the headlines. For example, a recent poll by the Morrison Institute found Arizona to be basically a tie between Obama and Romney.
According to the poll of 488 registered voters, 42 percent said they would vote for former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, while 40 percent said they would support President Barack Obama and 18 percent were undecided. Because the poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.4 percent, if the election were held today the contest for Arizona’s 11 electoral votes would be a “toss up.”
The poll found that the electorate is divided along party lines: 80 percent of Republicans said they would vote for Romney, 78 percent of Democrats for Obama. Although the sample of political independents is small (n=166), independents appear to be breaking slightly more for Obama (38 percent) than Romney (28 percent). However, the independent vote is still up for grabs because 34 percent of independents said they are undecided.
If this poll holds up, it explains why the Obama campaign decided to make a play for the state. With 18% of the vote undecided, now is the time to get the ground game there organized.

And here's bit of news that might come as a complete shock to the nativist tea baggers (that is, if they ever paid attention to actual facts): For the first time since Depression, more Mexicans leave US than enter.
A four-decade tidal wave of Mexican immigration to the United States has receded, causing a historic shift in migration patterns as more Mexicans appear to be leaving the United States for Mexico than the other way around, according to a report from the Pew Hispanic Center. It looks to be the first reversal in the trend since the Depression, and experts say that a declining Mexican birthrate and other factors may make it permanent.
Of course the bad job market in the US and stepped up enforcement are partially credited with this change. But as the quote above alludes to, there are some changes in Mexico that are just as important. First of all, Mexico's birth rate is dropping precipitously.
Mexico’s birth rate, once among the world’s highest, is in free-fall. In the 1960s Mexican mothers had nearly seven children each (whereas women in India then had fewer than six). The average now is just over two—almost the same as in the United States. The UN reckons that from 2040 the birth rate in Mexico will be the lower of the two.
Another factor is that Mexico is actually growing a middle class.
A wary but tenacious middle class is fast becoming the majority in Mexico, breaking down the rich-poor divide in a profound demographic transformation that has far-reaching implications here and in the United States. Although many Mexicans and their neighbors to the north still imagine a country of downtrodden masses dominated by a wealthy elite, the swelling ranks of the middle class are crowding new Wal-Marts, driving Nissan sedans and maxing out their Banamex credit cards.
And yes, that is the context for the recent story about the Wall Mart in Mexico bribery scandal.

This is the kind of information we need to have in order to understand the Mexican-American vote in the US. Perhaps it means we could finally stop that crazy talk about building a stupid fence. Just who is it they think its going to keep out? The more critical question on immigration is what we are going to do with the 12 million people who are already here without legal status. If we could have a sane conversation about that one - incorporating these kinds of facts - perhaps we would come close to addressing the issues facing many Hispanics in this country.

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