GOP pollster conducts Hispanic focus groups in Vegas

Public Opinion Strategies recently conducted focus groups among Las Vegas Latinos to try to probe ways for Republicans to effectively reach out to a demographic that is deeply distrustful of the GOP.

Nicole McCleskey of POS, a national Republican firm, conducted the focus groups and is posting about them on the firm's site.  The first one hearkens back to President Reagan, a Republican who supported immigration reform, and the second looks at current perceptions.

I understand McCleskey plans to post more entries in the coming weeks about the focus groups conducted in perhaps the best city in the country to gauge the views of Hispanics. There is some great stuff here. To wit:

By these focus group respondents’ measure, Reagan met most of these leadership characteristics.  Today’s higher profile Republicans are “too rich” to really understand the working class that largely define the Hispanic community.  One woman’s very early imprint of “Republican” was the mansion where the owners of the meat packing plant lived who employed her father for just sixty cents an hour.

But Democrats fall short on this leadership dimension as well, lacking the “backbone” or fortitude many in the group felt was essential in defining strong leadership.  They really do not see Democrats as “putting their foot down” and digging in to “deal with the important issues.”

These Hispanic voters were aware of Republican efforts to “re-brand.”  They say the Republican Party is “getting it” and perhaps trying to change, even thinking beyond the “old, white men” that have come to define the party stereotype in looking to leaders like Marco Rubio, Brian Sandoval and Susana Martinez.

But, they are also impressed with the conviction and passion of other non-Hispanic Republicans as well, praising Governors Chris Christie and Jeb Bush for their respective comments about Medicaid expansion and education reform.  Specifically, they see Christie as “human, caring about his people, compassionate.”  They like how he “calls it like he sees it” and “does what he thinks is right.”

But they say … he’s just one person.

And the challenge for Republicans is that many of these Hispanic voters believe that Republicans want to close the border.  Participants in our groups point to policies in Arizona as evidence of a targeted attempt to intimidate and harass Hispanics, American or not.  They say they know people who claim to have been “profiled” in Arizona.  And then there are the Arizona Minutemen whom participants in these groups associate with Republicans.  Deciphering the code is not difficult – Republicans don’t want us here.

Democrats are the party of the DREAM Act.  This is what our focus group participants agreed was an opportunity for the next generation.  The code is also not difficult – Democrats want us here.

But, when it comes to immigration reform, the principles they outline themselves sound shockingly … Republican.  Or at least ideas that Republicans could support.  Some of the policies these voters prefer include:
  • Border control

  • Accountability in citizenship, no shortcuts.

  • Learn the language – you’re an American.

  • No criminal background.

  • The residency process needs to be simpler and less expensive.

Handling the immigration debate properly is essential to opening the door for Republicans in the Hispanic community.  It says a lot about the value we place on Hispanic Americans.  After discussion and watching the speech, some of these Hispanic voters say “Republicans are changing and will work to help” and “they are looking out for the future of the country.”  That’s a much better place for us to be.