A poll conducted by Latino Decisions in Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Nevada and Virginia found that Hispanic voters were more enthusiastic about Obama after his announcement about DREAM Act-eligible young people. That marked an important change, since some Hispanic voters have been disheartened by the Obama administration's aggressive deportation policies toward other undocumented immigrants.
A national poll conducted for Bloomberg News immediately after the president's June 15 announcement found that 64 percent of likely voters agreed with the policy. Thirty percent disagreed, according to the Bloomberg poll. Independents backed the president's move by a two-to-one margin.
The politics of immigration in Florida are often more nuanced, however, because most Hispanic voters in the state are Cuban-Americans or Puerto Ricans. Most Cuban immigrants came to the country legally; Puerto Ricans are U.S. citizens.
"I don't think it's the hot, hot issue that some people think it is because they don't really understand Florida versus Arizona versus Texas," Coker said. "Most Hispanics that come here come here on an airplane or maybe a boat, a big boat. They're not sneaking across the Rio Grande or trying to walk across the desert to get here. They pretty much come in, they're welcomed and they assimilate very quickly. I don't think you've got that hostility that you might have in Arizona where illegal immigrants are being associated with crime and drugs and all kinds of other negative things."
The Mason-Dixon poll also found Florida voters also support giving police the right to check the citizenship of people who are stopped for a violation or who have committed a crime, the subject of a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision based on a challenge to an Arizona law. It had support from 53 percent of voters; 40 percent opposed it and 7 percent were undecided.
Not sharing the majority opinon was Doris Del Toro, 52, an independent, Cuban-American voter who owns a small business in Miami.
"We don't need Arizona-like immigration laws here in Florida," she said. "This is the land of liberty. It's about human rights. I don't want to see that kind of treatment toward immigrants in Florida."
The telephone survey of 800 registered Florida voters all likely to vote in the November general election was conducted July 9-11 for the Miami Herald, El Nuevo Herald, the Tampa Bay Times, Bay News 9 and Central Florida News 13. The poll was conducted by Mason-Dixon, a nonpartisan, Jacksonville-based company. The margin of error is 3.5 percentage points.
Miami Herald editor Sergio Bustos and Tampa Bay Times reporters Katie Sanders and Michael Van Sickler contributed to this report.