The big advantage that President Barack Obama had enjoyed over his Republican challenger among Florida Hispanics has been reduced to 6.5 percentage points, according to a survey released Monday.
The survey headed by Florida International University professor Eduardo Gamarra and Miami-based consultants Newlink Group shows that Obama has the support of 50.7 percent of Latino voters in Florida, compared to the 44.2 percent who say they support former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.
Even so, the Democratic incumbent retains an overwhelming 66 percent to 31 percent lead among Latinos nationwide, according to the poll conducted Oct. 10- 11 among 1,000 Hispanic likely voters across the country and 720 in Florida.
Around half of the approximately 21 million Latinos eligible to vote said they will go to the polls and if they do, according to Gamarra, "they could have significant influence on the outcome of the election."
In a briefing for reporters in Miami, Gamarra highlighted the "remarkable" demographic divide among Hispanics in Florida.
"Puerto Rican and Dominican and other Hispanic voters trust Obama. Cubans just don't," Gamarra said.
Projections indicate the president will not win a majority among Latinos in South Florida, FIU professor Jose Miguel Cruz said during the presentation.
Excluding Cubans, Obama has an advantage among Florida Hispanic voters of 64 to 33 percent, according to the survey, which has an error margin of plus/minus 3.6 percent.
The poll, conducted after the Oct. 3 televised presidential debate, in which Romney clearly bested the president, at least in stage presence, found that almost 5 percent of Hispanic votes in Florida are still undecided whom to vote for.
Fifty-four percent say that their situation is not better than it was four years ago, compared with 46 percent who believe their situation has improved, and 51 percent feel that Obama has not fulfilled the 2008 campaign promises he directed at the Hispanic community.
The new survey reflects discontent among Hispanics about Florida's jobless rate, which is above the national average, but Obama is ahead of Romney by 51 percent to 48 percent with regard to what people think about his management of the economy.
University of Puerto Rico demographer Jorge Duany praised the methodology and rigor of the poll and analyzed why Cuban-Americans are more favorable to Romney.
Duany attributes that "overwhelming support" for Romney, among other things, to U.S. foreign policy toward Cuba and to the fact that this group has values that are "more conservative than other Hispanic groups on issues such as abortion or gay marriage." EFE