The Pew has published a major new survey of American Hispanics correlating religious affiliation with political views and voting tendencies. And it tells you a lot about the great lost opportunity the Republican Party once had with this important and rapidly growing part of the electorate.

The assumption used to be that Hispanics/Latinos would steadily trend Republican as (a) they gained a firmer stake in the middle-class and (b) drifted more numerously into the evangelical Protestant fold where they’d be hearing conservative political messages from the pulpit and the broader community. On this latter note, as recently as 2007, an earlier Pew survey found a plurality of Hispanic Evangelicals self-identifying as Republicans.

Today Hispanic Evangelical Protestants remain notably more open to Republican voting than Hispanic Catholics (which isn’t saying much, since they favor Obama by a 73-19 margin), but they still are projected to vote for Obama over Romney by a 50-39 margin. Two groups that are rarely discussed, religiously unaffiliated Hispanics and mainline Protestant Hispanics, also help push Obama’s overall margins in this demographic to 69-21, better than the 67-31 margin he posted in 2008, despite four years in which Hispanics suffered enormously from bad economic circumstances.

Republicans must have really, really wanted the nativist bender on immigration policy they’ve been on for the last few years. They’re paying for it now by way of a freeze and then reversal in their once-bright prospects for gains among Hispanics. And late Romney efforts to arouse anger at Obama for not pursuing the comprehensive immigration reform his own party abandoned aren’t helping.

UPDATE: There’s a big Nagourney/Santos piece up at the New York Times site on the Hispanic vote’s central importance in the battleground states of Colorado, Nevada and Florida.

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Ed Kilgore is a political columnist for New York and managing editor at the Democratic Strategist website. He was a contributing writer at the Washington Monthly from January 2012 until November 2015, and was the principal contributor to the Political Animal blog.