A poll tracking Latino registered voters shows a dramatic jump in abortion as a top concern, though it still ranks below the rising cost of living and inflation.
The tracking poll, in its sixth year, showed that nearly half, 48%, of 400 Latinos surveyed nationally chose the rising cost of living as the top issue Congress and the president need to address.
Women's reproductive and abortion rights were the top concern for 28% of those surveyed in the poll, commissioned by National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials Educational Fund, or NALEO.
That's up from 4% of Latinos who named it as a top issue at the same point in the poll ahead of the 2018 midterms, said Arturo Vargas, executive director of NALEO's educational fund.
Only 4% of Latinos in the new poll said they favored limiting or banning abortion.
Addressing mass shootings and gun violence and improving wages and jobs were the third most mentioned concern, with each getting a mention by a quarter of the registered voters.
“What we are seeing here is Latinos are very much concerned with their quality of life as they consider who they are going to vote for and how they are going to vote,” Vargas said.
Although immigration remained among the top 10 concerns, it was the eighth most mentioned. Addressing Covid-19, which disproportionately killed and sickened Latinos and affected their jobs and wealth, was ninth. In 2020 it was consistently a No. 1 issue, Vargas said.
Vargas said both parties need to tune into the issues ranking as top concerns.
"The cost of living and inflation really is top of mind and then there are these other issues ... voting rights, abortion and gun safety are also very important."
In a separate question, 84% of Latinos surveyed said they strongly support or support passage of a new voting rights act.
The poll was conducted by BSP Research, one of whose co-founders conducted polling for the Biden administration.
The polling firm will survey voters through the next nine weeks leading up to the midterms.
Other polls of Latinos are also showing jumps in concern about abortion rights.
A poll of 2,750 Latinos — 2,540 were registered to vote and 210 were not but were eligible to vote — showed 19% ranked abortion as one of the top three issues elected officials should address. It was the fifth most mentioned, with gun violence as No. 2. That was up from 3% surveyed in 2020.
Like the NALEO poll, inflation and the rising cost of living was the top concern, mentioned by almost half of Latinos in the poll, also conducted by BSP Research for UnidosUS and MiFamilia Vota, two Latino advocacy groups.
Last month, Fernand Amandi, a Democratic pollster and principal with Bendixen and Amandi, said his polling showed Latinos favoring keeping abortion legal by large margins in key states: 30 points in Arizona, 40 points in Nevada and 41 points in Pennsylvania. Those states have competitive gubernatorial and U.S. Senate races this year.
Amandi said at the time that those margins signaled that the Republican Party had overreached on abortion, in particular Republican leaders' support for overturning Roe v. Wade and the implementation of strict abortion bans in GOP-run states.
Some Republican candidates have been walking back their support for a total ban on abortion and tempering their positions as only supportive of restrictions, as Republican pollsters have been warning it could hurt GOP candidates in competitive races, NBC News reported this week.
The Wall Street Journal reported in its political newsletter that its mid-August polling showed Hispanic women had shifted 15 points in Democrats' direction, which it attributed to the abortion issue.
A gap between issues and party support?
BSP pollster and analyst Stephen Nuño noted the tracking poll showed a strong gap between the more progressive policies that Latinos said they supported and who they are willing to support in Congress.
“When you look at the policies, the policies that we’re asking Latinos if they support, it’s a strongly progressive agenda,” said Nuño. “When we look at support for Democrats, there’s a gap there. Latinos are looking for solutions for these progressive issues, but not necessarily linking that to the Democratic Party.”
Along with inflation, abortion, improving wages and gun violence, lowering the cost of health care were the top five pressing issues named.
Yet the poll showed only half, 52%, of Latinos surveyed said they would vote for a Democratic candidate for Congress in their district, while 35% said they’d support the Republican. At the same point in 2018, just 22% said they’d back a Republican.
The GOP and its candidates are hitting President Joe Biden hard on inflation and the economy, which were salient issues for former President Donald Trump in boosting his Latino vote share in 2020.
About 30% of Latinos said they are doing worse financially than they were two years ago. However, inflation has been showing signs of slowing. Gas prices in August fell below $4 for the first time in months.
For those with Senate races in their state, 50% said they'd back the Democratic candidate.
On outreach, 'still work to be done'
President Biden was given a very favorable or favorable rating by 58% of those polled, compared to 38% for Trump, which is lower but a margin that in some races may be big enough for victories.
Half (51%) of Latinos polled had not been contacted by a party, campaign or other organization about registering to vote. Of those contacted, 57% heard from the Democratic Party, 34% from Republicans and 22% from someone else.
That's a slight improvement from the first NALEO tracking poll of the 2018 midterms, when 58% said they had not been contacted. Of those contacted that year, 51% heard from Democrats, 28% from Republicans and 14% from a nonprofit, said Rosalind Gold, NALEO's chief public policy officer. But a lot more engagement is needed, Vargas said.
"One out of two Latinos have been contacted, one out of two have not, so I think there is still work to be done by the political parties," Vargas said.
"It appears that they are doing better this election cycle than previous election cycles," Vargas said. "We want to see if this is going to be sustained and if over the next nine weeks we see an increase in the number Latinos who say they've been contacted."
NALEO has projected that 11.61 million Latinos will vote in 2022, similar to the record 2018 midterm turnout.
This article was originally published on NBCNews.com