WASHINGTON - President Bush is trailing his Democratic challenger John Kerry by a big margin among potential Hispanic voters, according to a new survey of Latino attitudes toward politics released on Thursday.
Kerry and his vice presidential choice, John Edwards, have the support of 62 percent of the Hispanics polled, while the Bush/Dick Cheney ticket has 32 percent support, according to a joint survey by The Pew Hispanic Center and the Kaiser Family Foundation.
Bush, according to exit polls, got about 35 percent of the Hispanic vote in 2000, a key constituency which could decide the election in swing states like Florida and Arizona, both of which went narrowly to Bush.
The survey polled 788 adults between July 12 and 20, and had a margin of error 3.5 percent.
The results were released together with a separate poll of Latino attitudes toward politics, which showed Hispanics were generally skeptical on the war in Iraq, divided over the role of government and concerned with economic issues rather than immigration.
Registered Hispanic voters ranked education as their top priority, with 54 percent saying the issue was extremely important in deciding their presidential vote, followed by the economy and jobs.
Only 27 percent considered immigration -- an issue often used to court Latino voters -- as a major concern, ranking it eleventh overall, behind the federal budget deficit.
President Bush has proposed a temporary work visa for between 8 and 12 million illegal immigrants, a move backed by 54 percent of the registered Latinos. But 83 percent supported a more ambitious proposal by Democrats, which would give the right to permanent residence to illegal immigrants who had spent a long time in the United States.
Fully 56 percent of Hispanics disapproved of Bush's handling of the situation in Iraq, roughly mirroring sentiment among the overall U.S. population, the survey said.
About 40 million Hispanics reside in the United States, with about seven or eight million expected to vote, according to Hispanic groups.
Latinos who are registered to vote are better educated and more likely to use English as their primary language than their counterparts who are not U.S. citizens, according to the poll.
The annual Pew Hispanic/Kaiser Family survey polled 2,288 Hispanics between April 21 and June 9, 2004, and had a margin of error of 2.83 percent.
The margin of error for the smaller sample that was eligible to vote -- 1,166 -- was 4.18 percent.
On Wednesday, another poll released by The Washington Post, the Univision Spanish language television network and the Tomas Rivera Policy Institute found that Hispanic voters strongly favored Kerry.
Asked who they would vote for if the November presidential election were held today, 60 percent said they would choose Kerry and 30 percent said Bush, according to the poll conducted from July 6 to 16.
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