With three weeks to go until election day the Latino Decisions tracking poll reports the first signs of increasing enthusiasm and vote intention among Latino registered voters in 2010. Last week the Pew Hispanic Center released a report indicating that just 51% of Latinos planned to vote in the November midterm. However, Pew does not use a registered voter list as a starting point, and published research has found Latinos are likely to over-report their registration status and voting rates. In contrast, Latino Decisions uses publicly available state databases of registered voters.

Week 7 of our tracking poll data report 74.9% of Latino registered voters state they are “almost certain” to vote, up from 72.6% last week, and 65.6% two weeks ago. When asked about how enthusiastic they were about participating in the midterm election, 50.2% of Latinos said they were “very enthusiastic” about voting in November, up from 41.3% last week, and 40.3% two weeks ago. In contrast to the Latino Decisions tracking poll, which surveys Latino voters on a continual basis every week, the Pew Hispanic Center survey was fielded August 17 – September 19, at an earlier point when many Latino voter mobilization drives had not yet begun in earnest.

In recent weeks, Latino civic groups such as Mi Familia Vota, NALEO, NCLR, Southwest Voter, and others have started large scale voter education and mobilization drives. Ben Monterroso, executive director of Mi Familia Vota recently stated, “From Houston to Phoenix, from Yuma to Denver, we have seen the Latino community interested in the elections,” and Arturo Vargas, head of NALEO told Politico, that they are seeing a very engaged, albeit angry, Latino electorate. However, some very notable gaps do exist among Latinos in terms of enthusiasm in 2010. Young Latino voters who mobilized to vote in record numbers during the 2008 election, report much lower rates of voter engagement in 2010. Among Latinos age 18-29, just 32% said they are certain to vote, compared to 80% certain to vote in the 50-64 age group. Likewise, enthusiasm appears much lower with 23% of young Latinos very enthusiastic about 2010, compared to 53% of 50-64 year old Latino voters. So while we find overall voter engagement and enthusiasm appears on a small upswing, for young Latinos this does not seem to be the case.

Will renewed enthusiasm help save the Democrats?

If the trend of renewed enthusiasm continues over the final three weeks in our tracking poll, it may represent a small light at the end of long, dark tunnel for Democrats. Over the past four weeks we have found small, but consistent gains in the two-party vote share for Democrats among Latinos nationwide. On September 20, we found 51.1% of Latinos intended to vote Democrat and 21.6% Republican. Today, 59.2% of Latinos state they will vote Democrat, compared to 20.1% who will vote Republican. This 39-point advantage is the largest Democratic edge over the past seven weeks.

A glimpse at the state-by-state vote

With seven weeks of data amassed, it is now possible to disaggregate the findings by state, as opposed to reporting just national trends. While we interview in 21 states nationally, we can only aggregate results for the 10 largest states. Across all states we examine, Democrats enjoy an advantage over Republicans, from a high of 70-12 in New York, to a low of 39-32 in Florida. In the Southwest, subtle differences emerge, where Democrats have a 32 point edge in New Mexico and 23 point edge in Colorado, but well over a 50 point edge in Nevada and Arizona (next week we’ll release more from a state level oversample in Arizona). If the Latino electorate is engaged and turns out at near equal rates to non-Latinos, there is little doubt that the Latino vote can be influential in many Gubernatorial, Senate and U.S. House races across the country.

This piece was first published at Latino Decisions, which includes some more charts and graphs.