PHOENIX (Reuters) - U.S. Hispanics turned out in force to vote for Democrat Barack Obama on Tuesday, contributing to his wins in key battleground states in the Southwest and Florida, exit polls showed.
A CNN national exit poll found that 66 percent of Latinos voted for Sen. Obama, who is poised to become the first black president in U.S. history, with 32 percent supporting his Republican rival, John McCain, an Arizona senator.
Hispanics are a key bloc that makes up 15 percent of the U.S. population and 9 percent of the electorate, and had been expected to play a key role in swing states that Obama won on Tuesday, including Nevada, Colorado, New Mexico and Florida.
The CNN exit poll showed that 76 percent of Nevada Hispanics voted for Obama, 73 percent in Colorado, and 69 percent in New Mexico.
In Florida, where support for Republicans has traditionally been stronger among the Cuban community, Obama won 57 percent of the Latino vote.
In 2004, President George W. Bush won about 40 percent of the Hispanic vote — a Republican record — when he beat Democrat John Kerry.
Opinion polls in the run up to Tuesday’s election showed Republican standing among Hispanics has since been hurt by a shrill national debate over immigration reform and a worsening economy.
Reporting by Tim Gaynor, editing Cynthia Osterman