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The economy and jobs were top concerns of Latinos who voted in Tuesday’s midterm elections, according to new data from an election night poll conducted by Latino Decisions in eight states where high Latino voter turnout was critical to election outcomes. Nearly half (48%) of Hispanic voters ranked jobs or the economy as the issue of most concern to their community (31% said jobs, and 17% said the economy). When asked about their specific concerns about today’s economic situation, a majority of Latino voters (53%) polled named worry over finding employment or over losing the job they have. Poll results also signaled that Latinos are anxious for solutions to these ongoing problems from the 112th Congress.
News about the national employment situation released today by the Bureau of Labor Statics reinforces the urgency of the jobs crisis that weighs so heavily on voters’ minds. In October, 12.6% of Latinos were unemployed, compared with 9.6% of the total workforce. The disparity is the same or worse at the state level. All of the states surveyed in the Latino Decisions poll–Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Illinois, New Mexico, Nevada, and Texas–had a higher unemployment rate for Latinos than for the workforce overall. For example, Hispanic workers in California faced a 14.7% unemployment rate in 2009, compared to 11.3% for workers in the state overall. As of September 2010, California’s overall unemployment rate had risen to 12.4% (monthly employment data is not available by race and ethnicity), which no doubt contributed to voters’ anxiety about jobs and the economy. In Nevada, the state with the highest unemployment rate in the nation (14.4%) in September 2010, more than half (54%) of Latino voters said that jobs and the economy are the most important issues to the Latino community.
Many Latinos who voted are not convinced that their elected officials are standing up for them in debates about how to put people back to work and repair the economy. In response to the question “how much do you think the public officials take into account economic issues of the Hispanic community when considering reforms?” 36% of those polled said “somewhat,” 33% said “not too much,” and 14% said “not at all.” This is a clear charge to Congress to respond to ongoing economic challenges in new, effective ways.