How much do Latinos even care about immigration?

After the thorough thumping the GOP received last Tuesday, GOP leaders started moving to the left on immigration. Hannity, Murdoch, and Boehner all came out in support of immigration reform. The conventional wisdom is that the Republicans have realized that they have walked themselves into a demographic dead end, and are trying to appeal to Latinos in order to crawl out of it. But does this particular strategy make any sense?

The strategy seems to assume that immigration is the thing keeping Latinos from favoring Republicans. But when polled, the overwhelming majority of Latinos don’t rank immigration as their most important issue. Only 16% of registered Latino voters that were born outside the US rank immigration policies as their most important issue. Only 14% of registered Latino voters who parents were born outside the US do so, and only 7% of third-generation Latinos do so.

These are not trivial numbers of people, but is this really a serious strategy? For this to be a serious strategy, you would have to think that there are a substantial number of Latinos who, but for the GOP’s immigration policies, would vote for the GOP. But where is that in these numbers? It sure looks like the policy issues most important to Latinos are just those issues traditionally considered in the domain of the Democratic party.

It is very mysterious to me how the Republican party adopting a slightly less ridiculous stance on immigration will turn a great number of Latinos on to them, given what else we know about Latinos’ policy preferences. If the GOP shift on immigration does not increase their appeal to Latino voters, they may end up digging themselves into an even deeper electoral hole by creating more Latino citizens, and therefore voters.