A majority of Latinos disapprove of the record number of deportations that have taken place under the Obama Administration, but would still prefer to re-elect the president in 2012 over his main GOP rivals, according to a poll by the Pew Hispanic Center.

The poll results, released Wednesday, show that Latinos do not agree with the Obama Administration record of nearly 400,000 deportations annually that has been bitterly criticized by immigration advocates.

The poll shows that 59 percent of Latinos surveyed said they disapproved of the way the administration had handled deportations, in contrast to 27 percent who approved.

The Pew report said that deportations had risen “to an annual average of nearly 400,000 since 2009, about 30 percent higher than the annual average during the second term of the Bush administration and about double the annual average during George W. Bush’s first term.”

And yet, the report said, while Latinos accounted for 97 percent of those deported, and while the poll respondents showed mainly disapproval over the deportation uptick, a majority of Latinos would give their vote to President Obama in 2012.

“In a hypothetical match-up against former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney,” the report said, “Obama wins 68 percent to 23 percent among Latino registered voters.”

“And in a match-up against Texas Gov. Rick Perry,” it continued, “Obama wins the Latino vote 69 percent to 23 percent. These results closely match the outcome of the 2008 presidential election, when Obama carried the Latino vote over Republican John McCain by 67 percent to 31 percent.”

(The poll was conducted before former House Speaker Newt Gingrich surged in the GOP polls.)

The report indicated several reasons behind the results, including the strong preference most Latino registered voters expressed for the Democratic Party. Some 67 percent of Latino registered voters said they identify or lean toward the Democratic Party, while 20 percent preferred the Republican Party.

At the same time, Latinos showed a more favorable view of Republicans than they did just a year ago, with 12 percent saying they are better for Latinos – that is six percentage points higher than in 2010.

Among Latino registered voters, 35 percent see themselves as politically conservative, 32 percent as moderate, and 28 percent as liberal.

While Republicans scored slightly more favorably among Latinos, for all of their positive statements about Obama overall, Latinos nonetheless did not express as supportive a view of Obama as they did in 2010.

Forty-nine percent of Latinos said they approve of the overall job that Obama is doing, down from the 58 percent who approved in 2010.

In the general population, 46 percent said they approved of how Obama is doing his job.

Another reason the report indicated for why Latinos said they would vote for Obama while strongly disapproving of the high number of deportations under his watch is that immigration – particularly as a determinant for which candidate to support -- is not a priority for many Latino voters.

Instead, more pressing issues for Latinos are jobs, education and health care when it comes to deciding for whom to vote, the report says.

While 33 percent of Latino registered voters described immigration as personally important to them, the percentage rose to 50 percent when the question was about how important they rated jobs, 49 percent regarding education, and 45 percent regarding health care.

This story contains material from The Associated Press.

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