In this week’s Figuring Faith, my blog at the Washington Post, I examine how GOP efforts to excise funding for the 2010 Affordable Care Act from the federal budget may affect the party’s long-term success with reaching the growing number of Hispanic voters in the United States.

Strategists from both parties have been busy calculating what the possible fallout from the shutdown might be for the 2014 mid-term elections. Overall, polling shows that Americans are significantly more likely to blame the Republican Party than the Democratic Party for the shutdown. But new polling by Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) reveals that the hardline Republican focus on opposition to health care reform may have the unintended consequence of undermining a key long-term party objective: connecting with Hispanic voters, who favored Obama over Romney by a 3-to-1 ratio in 2012.

One of the more striking findings of PRRI’s recent Hispanic Values Survey, a nationally representative survey of Hispanics living in the United States, was the importance of the issue of health care within the Hispanic community. Nearly two-thirds (65 percent) of Hispanics overall and 71 percent of Hispanic registered voters say the rising cost of health care as a critical issue in America today, ranking its importance nearly as high as jobs and unemployment (72 percent) and significantly higher than immigration reform (53 percent). Among Hispanics, this emphasis on health care crosses party and religious lines: both Hispanic Democrats (71 percent) and Republicans (64 percent) rank the rising cost of health care as a critical issue. Likewise, majorities of all Hispanic religious groups cite the rising cost of health care as a critical issue facing the country, including the religiously unaffiliated (71 percent), Catholics (66 percent), mainline Protestants (65 percent) and evangelical Protestants (64 percent). For Hispanics, the issue of health care coverage is less a partisan one than a practical one: Hispanics constitute the largest group of Americans lacking health insurance, with nearly 3-in-10 (29 percent) lacking coverage.

Notably, most Hispanics also have no problem with the government playing a central role in the provision of health care. Nearly 6-in-10 (58 percent) Hispanics agree that the government should guarantee health insurance for all citizens, even if it means raising taxes, compared to 39 percent who disagree. Arguments from Republican leaders, then, that Obamacare is an inappropriate incursion by government are likely to fall fairly flat.

Be sure to check out my full column over at The Washington Post.

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