Former Gov. Mitt Romney’s loss at the polls may be in part due to the Republican Party’s lack of support from the Latino community, experts say.

According to a report released by the Pew Research Center, 23.7 million Hispanics were eligible to vote in the 2012 election.This is a 22 percent increase from the 19.5 percent eligible Latinos in the 2008 election, the report said.

The report said Latino voters also make up 11 percent of eligible voters in the U.S., compared to 8.2 percent in the 2004 election.

University of Wisconsin political science professor Donald Downs said the Latino vote proved to be significant in elections across the nation. He added it did not help Romney, R-Mass., in Wisconsin and added the Latino vote was not as important in Wisconsin as in other places.

“At both the national and the state level, Republicans need to be part of principled and meaningful immigration reform if they want to be more acceptable to Latinos,” Downs said.

Downs said Romney’s posture on immigration “doomed” him with the Latino vote. 

If Republicans have a more positive stance on immigration, they should be able to garner more Latino votes for at least four reasons, Downs said.

“Reason one is Latinos tend to be more socially conservative, like Republicans; two, Latinos believe in opportunity and self-reliance, which Republicans stress; three, George W. Bush got over 40 percent of the Latino vote, which shows they are not inherently hostile to Republicans; four, the Republicans have a very promising ‘bench’ of presidential contenders,” Downs said.

Downs named figures such as Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., and Gov. Susana Martinez, R-N.M., as such Latino contenders.

Downs said the main thing that “really did Romney in” was the surprisingly low turnout of Republicans.

“[Romney] got fewer votes in the end than 2008 presidential candidate Sen. John McCain did. Obama ended up with eight- to-million fewer votes. Had Republicans turned out more, Romney could have won,” Downs said. “Romney’s turnout machine in Ohio and elsewhere was not very good in the end.”

Jay Heck, executive director of Common Cause Wisconsin, said the Republicans did not try to obtain Latino votes. He noted this trend was particularly true in Wisconsin.
<
p>Heck said he guesses very few Latinos voted Republican in this election because of the harsh stance the party has toward immigration. 

“The Republican Party made no attempt to reach out to Latino voters in the 2012 election, and they paid the price for it,” Heck said. 

Heck said in order for Republicans to gain the support of the Republican Party, they need to soften their stance on immigration laws and even embrace legal immigration.

If Republicans do not reach out to the Latino population in future races, Heck said they will lose even more support, as demographics are shifting away from being a white majority in Wisconsin.

“The Republican Party is viewed as ‘the party of white men’ by many citizens and demographics are currently not in their favor,” Heck said. “But the Democrats must continue to work as well and not take any previous support from the Latino community for granted,” Heck said.

Heck added Latinos do not vote in a block and said there certainly are minority citizens who voted Republican.

But by and large, the Republican Party is seen as anti-Latino by many citizens, Heck said.