The poll suggests, however, that Romney doesn’t have very strong coat-tails in Florida, where Republican Senate candidate Connie Mack IV loses by 10 percentage points among Hispanics to incumbent Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson.
Political observers say that Obama, who did relatively well for a Democrat with second-generation Cuban-American voters in 2008, probably won’t be able to repeat the feat.
The Obama campaign, meantime, has responded with messages more tailored toward other Hispanic groups, particularly Puerto Rican voters, by noting in ads that he appointed the first woman of Puerto Rican descent, Sonia Sotomayor, to the U.S. Supreme Court.
The tough economy is even tougher on minorities. That includes Hispanics. And voter-registration data show they prefer the “no party affiliation” label.
“The Florida Hispanic electorate is absolutely more diverse and difficult to poll than anywhere else in the nation,” said Gary Segura, a Stanford University political science professor and principal of the Latino Decisions polling group.
Segura said that older people tend to be more active voters and willing poll respondents, and so Florida Hispanic polls can lean Republican because Cuban-Americans tend to be older than other Hispanics. Also, Cubans in Florida are more politically active because many fled Fidel Castro’s government.
“This is a community that entered the United States as a result of politics,” Segura said. “Older Cubans have been fighting the fight for 30 to 40 years. They’re going to answer every call. They vote.”
Segura’s polling firm uses live callers to conduct surveys of Hispanics, not the technology used by Newlink, which employs Interactive Voice Response technology — known as “robo-polling” — in which people essentially cast their vote by using their telephone keypads in response to pre-recorded questions.
Newlink and Gamarra have used the technology to poll throughout Latin America since 2004. This poll and a previous survey were predominantly conducted in Spanish.
But robo-polls can under sample cell phones in the United States, where Hispanics and young people tend to be among the most likely to have cell phone-only households. By contrast, older Cuban-Americans are more likely to be well established and have landlines phones that are more easily polled.
However, Cuban Americans in Florida are often missed by one type of survey: Election Day exit polls. That’s largely because Cubans tend to vote early, by absentee ballots. So far, for instance, in Miami-Dade 43 percent of the 134,000 absentee ballots cast so far were voted by Republicans, most of whom are Hispanic.
FIU’s Gamarra said this robo-poll survey is an indication about the mood of the Hispanic electorate, which dispels the myth of a united Hispanic community.
Cubans have special immigration status, and Puerto Ricans are U.S. citizens. So the issue of immigration doesn’t affect them they way it does with other Hispanic groups, who face greater immigration challenges and have more influence in other swing states like Colorado or Nevada.
Gamarra said the poll shows that the Cuban vote isn’t just tough for pollsters to deal with. It’s tough for Democrats.
“You keep hearing about a liberalization of the vote with younger, second-generation Cubans. But the polls are not showing it,” Gamarra said. “Young Cubans are starting to look more Republican than their parents.”