Latino voters helped Colorado stay blue -- more so than in any other battleground state

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Up until the final days of this year's presidential race, pundits on both sides of the aisle agreed that Colorado remained a toss-up, and a key battleground for both candidates. In the end, however, the state, like virtually every close race in the country, ended up going to Obama, and a report says the Latino vote was critical -- more so than in any other swing state.

A joint election-eve polling from ImpreMedia and Latino Decisions, which surveyed Latino voters in eleven states, found that Hispanic voters played a crucial role in helping Obama win reelection.

In Colorado, says the report (on view below), polling found that Latino voters supported Obama over Romney by an 87 percent to 10 percent margin -- the largest split of all eleven states in the poll. That amounted to a net contribution of 9.5 percentage points to Obama, the findings show. And that amount was larger than Obama's 4.3 percent margin of victory.

"The numbers kind of speak for themselves," says Patty Kupfer, managing director of America's Voice Education Fund, an immigration reform organization and contributor to the poll. "It's really remarkable.... Latino voters made a decisive difference for Obama."

Official national exit polls found similar support for the president among Latino voters, though not quite as drastic as the ImpreMedia poll; Kupfer says she believes the national polling numbers tend to do a poor job of capturing the impact of Hispanic voters.

Those exit polls show that 74 percent of Hispanic votes went to the president -- still a very significant number.

"If the administration can recognize that the second term that they have is in large part due to support from Latinos, what does that mean for their policy agenda?" asks Kupfer. "When these voters deliver for them, what are they doing in return to recognize that support?"

The importance of the Latino vote has been very apparent at Obama and Romney rallies in Colorado for months leading up to election day. Civic groups also launched efforts aimed specifically at combating the suppression or intimidation of Latino voters in Colorado.

Continue for more details from the poll and for more photos. One goal of the ImpreMedia-Latino Decision poll, which included 5,600 Latino voters, was also to go more in-depth into why Latino voters overwhelmingly support Obama, and Kupfer says there were some interesting results for Colorado.

The report says 75 percent of Latino voters in Colorado were contacted by the Democratic Party while 39 percent were contacted by the Republican Party -- which ultimately makes a big difference, she says.

"That just tells me that the Democrats are doing a pretty good job in their outreach," she says.

Kupfer also finds that immigration reform and Obama's announcement in June to stop the deportation of immigrant youth played a vital role in Latino support for the president.

Half of Colorado Latino voters said that fixing the economy and creating more jobs was the number one issue for the Latino community, followed by 34 percent who said the same about immigration reform and the DREAM Act.

Looking forward, Kupfer says, it's clear that the Latino vote will play an important role in Colorado swinging more blue than red in future elections.

(Only 24 percent of respondents said they would be more likely to vote Republican if the party "took a leadership role in supporting comprehensive immigration reform, with an eventual pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, and Republicans worked to ensure it would pass.")

"I would look to New Mexico or Nevada to think about where Colorado is going," she says, noting that Latino populations in those states have increasingly turned them more Democratic.

While there are different factors in play in Colorado -- such as more highly educated youth moving to the state and supporting Obama -- it's clear that Hispanic voters could be key in making the state less of a swing state and more left-leaning in the future.

"I can't say it's strictly about Latinos, but they fit very easily into that model of turning Colorado blue," she says.

Continue for the full Colorado report. Here's the full report on Colorado. Latino Vote Exit Poll ImpreMedia Latino Decisions

More from our Politics archive: "Colorado Dems celebrate Obama victory Gangnam style at downtown watch party"

Follow Sam Levin on Twitter at @SamTLevin. E-mail the author at Sam.Levin@Westword.com.

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