SANTA FE -- A poll released Friday by a national Latino research organization said President Obama captured 77 percent of the Hispanic vote in New Mexico, a powerhouse showing that enabled him to carry the state.
The same percentage of Hispanics voted for U.S. Sen.-elect Martin Heinrich, also a Democrat, according to the election-eve poll by Latino Decisions. The company calls itself the country's leading Latino opinion research firm.
Obama defeated Republican Mitt Romney in New Mexico by 9 percentage points. Heinrich's margin over Republican Heather Wilson, a former congresswoman from Albuquerque, was 5 points.
Perhaps most significant, the poll found that Obama's dominance among Hispanic voters was the largest in the recorded history of New Mexico presidential politics, said Gabe Sanchez, director of research for Latino Decisions and an associate professor of political science at the University of New Mexico. Sanchez said the previous mark was a 72 percent showing by Democrat Bill Clinton in 1996.
Obama had a 77-21 margin over Romney, according to the poll. Heinrich also received 77 percent of the Hispanic vote compared to 22 percent for Wilson, the poll said.
"We think that's a pretty eye-popping number," Sanchez said in a conference call with reporters.
Hispanics make up 40 percent of the electorate in New Mexico. The huge margins they gave to Obama and Heinrich carried each to victory, Sanchez said.
He had not yet broken down how many of the 77 percent who voted for Obama and Heinrich were registered Democrats.
But of those surveyed, 59 percent described themselves as Democrats. Twenty percent said they were independents and 12 percent were Republicans.
The overriding messages of Sanchez's group and three other Latino organizations who joined him on the conference call were this: Hispanic voters can determine the outcome of an election, and Republicans had not courted them or listened to their concerns.
Patty Kupfer is managing director of America's Voice Education Fund, an immigration reform coalition based in Washington. She said the poll showed that jobs and the economy were the top issues among Hispanics in New Mexico. Fifty-five percent listed one or the other as their chief concern.
Second was immigration reform and implementation of the Dream Act, at 29 percent. The Dream Act would give young people born elsewhere but raised in the United States a path to citizenship.
The measure was defeated in Congress at the end of 2010. Obama has tried to revive it, receiving support from Heinrich and New Mexico's two sitting senators, Democrats Jeff Bingaman and Tom Udall.
Kupfer criticized New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez and other Republican politicians for ignoring such big-picture issues and focusing instead on measures such as driver's licenses for undocumented immigrants and photo identification to vote.
In his campaign, Heinrich advocated for the Dream Act, and at a debate in Las Cruces he accused Wilson of sidestepping the issue. Five days later in Albuquerque, Wilson said she would have supported the Dream Act legislation that Heinrich backed as a congressman.
But at that stage, the poll suggested that Heinrich had cemented support from Hispanic voters.
The poll also surveyed Hispanic voters in battleground and Western states.
One finding was that those in New Mexico were less concerned about the Dream Act than voters in every other state surveyed. In Arizona, 48 percent said the Dream Act was priority, and it was 34 percent in both Texas and Colorado.
Milan Simonich, Santa Fe bureau chief of Texas-New Mexico Newspapers, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 505-820-6898. His blog is at nmcapitolreport.com