WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama holds a comfortable lead over his Republican rivals among Hispanic voters a year before elections, but with less enthusiasm than in 2008, a poll showed Wednesday.
A Univision News/Latino Decisions poll found Obama would easily outpace Republicans among Hispanics, with registered voters giving the president two-to-one margins over former pizza executive Herman Cain (65 to 22 percent), ex-Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney (67 to 24 percent) and Texas Governor Rick Perry (68 to 21 percent).
"The GOP candidates are neither well-known nor well-liked" among Latinos, Gary Segura of Latino Decisions told a teleconference.
Republicans have "significant room to improve their Latino outreach and get their names better known," he added.
Winning the Latino vote could be especially important for Republicans seeking their party's nomination during the primary voting process, as early voting states like Florida, Nevada and South Carolina have important Hispanic populations.
And for Obama, garnering strong Hispanic turnout in swing states with growing Latino populations such as North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia, could prove critical.
But enthusiasm is waning sharply for Obama among Latinos -- one of the fastest-growing demographic groups in the United States -- with 53 percent saying they are now less excited about the president than in 2008 when he made his historic White House win.
Only 47 percent of registered Hispanic voters said they were "very enthusiastic" about voting next year, about the same percentage as those saying they were more revved up about casting their ballots in 2008. And just 32 percent said they were more enthusiastic about the 2012 elections.
"This is likely to present a significant challenge for the mobilization that existed in 2008 that assisted President Obama in winning that election," said Segura.
During the last elections, a record number of Latinos turned out to vote, with about two thirds supporting Obama over Republican Senator John McCain.
Among Republican Hispanic voters, 50 percent said they were more motivated to vote in the 2012 elections than in 2008, compared to only 29 percent for Democrats.
The poll of 1,000 registered voters conducted October 21-November 1 had a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percent.
Hispanics are the largest minority in the country, numbering over 50 million people with about 21 million eligible -- though not necessarily registered -- to vote in the 2012 elections, according to the Pew Hispanic Center.