A first of its kind survey of Connecticut’s Latino voters found that they overwhelmingly support President Barack Obama, but are heavily undecided in the U.S. Senate race between Democrat Chris Murphy and Linda McMahon.
The poll of 100 Latino voters found that 56 percent are not able to name one of the Senate candidates without being prompted, and even when prompted 50 percent remained undecided.
“Latino voters who could name the senatorial candidates revealed a virtual dead heat with 19 percent favoring Murphy and 16 percent favoring McMahon,” a poll released Tuesday found.
There are more than 176,000 Latino voters registered in the state and their vote could be the margin of victory in the U.S. Senate race, Wilson Camelo, managing director of Pulso, the company that conducted the poll, said Tuesday.
The problem is neither candidate has made too much of an effort to reach out to them, he said.
The survey found fifty-one percent of Latino voters have not been directly contacted by any of the campaigns this year.
Of those 49 percent who have been contacted by a candidate, 38 percent received information from Obama, 10 percent by Mitt Romney, 25 percent by McMahon and 21 percent by Murphy.
McMahon has been running ads in Spanish on Telemundo and Univision since August, but Murphy has only run one Spanish radio ad that started last week. However, the Service Employees International Union also plans on spending about $128,000 on a Spanish radio ad in opposition to McMahon on Murphy’s behalf. That ad started running at the beginning of the month.
Camelo said the amount of money the candidates are spending on Connecticut’s Latino media isn’t much different than the amount of money the candidates are spending on Latino voters in swing states. However, it’s disappointing their message is coming so close to the election when the issues Latino voters care about are no different than the rest of the electorate.
“It mirrors what the candidates are talking about,” Camelo said, adding that immigration is toward the bottom of the list.
About 65 percent of the Latino population in Connecticut come from Puerto Rico where voter turnout is around 80 percent in most elections.
“This is a population that will make it to the polls if you give them a reason to go,” Camelo said.
According to Secretary of the State Denise Merrill Latinos account for 9 percent of registered voters in the state.
The communities with the highest numbers of registered Latino voters are Bridgeport with 25,519 registered, and Hartford with 24,911 registered. New Haven has 12,541 and Waterbury has 15,072 registered Latino voters.
Merrill’s office tracks Latino voting information because under federal law it’s required to provide ballots in Spanish in any city or town where 5 percent of the registered voters speak that language.
Connecticut candidates have made small efforts to reach out to the Latino community. Last year, before she was a candidate McMahon visited the Centro San Jose, a community center run by Catholic Charities in New Haven. She made a donation and spent some time reading to the children.
It’s unclear how much of an effort she has made recently to court Latino votes because her campaign doesn’t put out a public schedule.
Sen. Andrew Roraback, who is running in the 5th Congressional District race, which represents parts of Waterbury and New Britain, addressed the crowd at the Hispanic Coalition of Greater Waterbury Coqui Award event in Spanish.
And Murphy, who has also been difficult to track down this year, was escorted around Hartford’s neighborhoods earlier this month and just last week he made a stop in one of Bridgeport’s Latino neighborhoods.