Contours of electoral preference: attitudes towards immigration as predictors of electoral choice in the 2008 U.S. presidential election




Bautista, Jon Michael

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Objective. Immigration is today one of the most hotly debated policy issues in the United States. Despite noticeable divergence of opinion between voters and even within political parties, several important factors involving immigration still raise questions. The 2008 presidential election was the first time in our nation's history that we elected a minority candidate into office. Simultaneously, it was also the first time issues of immigration were dealt with by a minority Presidential candidate. However, very little research has explored attitudes toward immigration and its effects on the odds of voting for the Democratic candidate. Methods. Using a quantitative approach, I examine responses regarding the importance of immigration as a predictor in voting for Obama using a subset from the 2008 American National Election Study. Results. My findings reveal that key variables of immigration attitudes play potentially important roles in predicting electoral choice, specifically in non-Hispanic Whites. Furthermore, our counterintuitive claim suggests that immigration had no effect on predicting the odds of voting for Obama in Latinos. Conclusions. Findings show that the odds of voting for Obama decrease significantly among non-Hispanic Whites when immigration was used as a predictor of electoral choice. Inferences are drawn from the perception of group threat and rational voting behavior for non-Hispanic Whites. One important discovery found that the odds of voting for Obama were inconclusive when immigration was used as a predictor in Latinos. This is presumably due to immigration attitudes being less salient among native born Latinos.


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Cultural Affinity, Immigration, Latinos, Perceived Group Threat, Rational Choice, U.S. Presidential Election