A poll conducted by Latino Decisions and co-sponsored by the Latino Policy Forum, the National Alliance of Latin American and Carribbean Countries, and Univision Chicago from March 16-20, surveying 406 registered Chicago Latino voters showed overwhelming support for Cook County Commissioner Jesus “Chuy” Garcia in his mayoral runoff race against Mayor Rahm Emanuel.
Of those polled, 61 percent preferred Garcia, while just 18 percent voiced their support for Emanuel.
Those numbers leave a decent amount of undecided voters among Latinos.
One other finding of the poll was more surprising, however.
Nearly two thirds of those polled (65 percent) said that neither the Emanuel or Garcia campaign, nor any allied party or community organizations had asked them to register to vote for or vote in the upcoming April 7 election. The results of this poll were announced just a day after the latest Ogden & Fry poll, which had Emanuel leading Garcia by 16-percentage points in the race for mayor.
Latinos make up 17 percent of Chicago’s registered voters. Sounds like kind of a significant number, all of the sudden, doesn’t it?
On their face, the poll results would seem to suggest that both the Garcia and Emanuel campaigns may be neglecting Latino voters in this relatively close election. Both campaigns could have their reasons for doing so.
Emanuel may be writing off Latino votes, despite having perhaps the nation’s highest-profile Latino elected official in U.S. Congressman Luis Gutierrez as his campaign chair, and having done pretty well among Hispanic voters in 2011. Perhaps Emanuel’s campaign is more focused on getting as many black voters on his side, as well as republican voters in this non-partisan election as possible (though none of these demographic classifications need be mutually exclusive, of course), instead of trying to sway Latino voters in a race against the Mexico-born Garcia.
As for the challenger, perhaps he simply doesn’t have enough campaign cash to reach out to voters individually as he probably should be. Garcia could also simply be taking the Latino vote for granted.
Such a large percentage of Latino registered voters saying they prefer him in the poll might seem to reinforce the notion that Garcia has got those votes in the bag. Unfortunately for Garcia, turning that level of Latino support into a win may not be so simple.
Latinos in Chicago have historically lagged behind their population growth in terms of both amount of registered voters and in terms of actual voter turnout on election days. Garcia’s campaign has simply not existed long enough to make a serious movement-level voter registration effort, either before last months’ initial election or before April 7’s (the voter registration deadline for which was March 10).
Registering new voters who will then vote for a candidate is a central component of most underdog campaigns. Before he would even agree to run for Mayor in 1982, U.S. Rep. Harold Washington told those trying to recruit him that they’d need to register tens of thousands of new Chicago residents to vote.
They did, to the tune of about 50,000 new registered black voters, alone. Washington ran, and then won.
Washington garnered about 99 percent of the black vote in April 1983, as well as about 82 percent of the Latino vote.
For those keeping score, that’s about 20 points more in Latino support than this latest poll show Garcia as having. Without having substantially increased his voter base through sizeable voter registration, Garcia will need to now focus on turning out votes from those who support him.
The 65 percent of registered voters who said that neither Emanuel nor Garcia’s campaigns have asked them to vote on election-day suggest that “Chuy” hasn’t really begun that effort in any effective way, yet.
Expressing preference for a candidate weeks before an election over the phone or through a written survey is a far cry from actually getting out and voting for them on election day (or during early voting, which is underway, folks!). If Garcia’s campaign doesn’t get serious about turning out potential votes among Latinos, he’ll have little shot at unseating Emanuel.
You’ve got to make the ask of voters, guys. Or, don’t, and leave it all up to chance.