Washington (CNN) – After Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney lost the Latino vote by more than 40% in 2012, the Republican Party has started an effort to rebrand itself to be more attractive to the growing demographic.
But that's not going to be easy, according to the results of a new poll released Friday, and will require the Republican Party to turn back the a belief among Latinos that the party doesn't care about them.
Half of Hispanics identify with the Democratic Party, according to the Public Religion Research Institute poll, compared to the 15% who identify with the GOP.
But the problem is more than just party identification, says the survey. Forty-three percent of Hispanics identified that the phrase "cares about people like you" more appropriately describes the Democratic Party, while 12% say the same for the GOP.
Also an issue for the GOP: their favorability rating with Hispanic voters has dramatically declined since George W. Bush won re-election in 2004 with 44% of the Hispanic vote.
After Bush's re-election, nearly half of Hispanics reported having a favorable view of the GOP. In nine years, that number has split in half, with 24% of Hispanics reporting in the most recent PRRI poll that they had a positive view of the GOP, while 65% said they have an unfavorable view of the party.
"I think the poll clearly shows that Republicans have both a brand issue and an issue problem," said Robert P. Jones, head of PRRI. "I think both of those things are going to have to get addressed to make progress connecting with Hispanics in America."
Months after November 2012's presidential election, the Republican National Committee unveiled a lengthy report on what the party needed to do if it were to dispatch its image as "'narrow minded,' 'out of touch,' and 'Stuffy old men,'" said RNC chairman Reince Priebus.
"Public perception of the Party is at record lows," said the RNC report. "Many minorities wrongly think that Republicans do not like them or want them in the country. When someone rolls their eyes at us, they are not likely to open their ears to us."
This month, in an open letter to his party that was published by the National Review, Priebus reiterated his plea to reach out to Hispanic voters.
"If you're not engaging with the Hispanic community, you better get to work," reads the letter. "Hispanics deserve candidates and a party that will fight for their vote. In working to earn Hispanics' trust, though, Republicans have to remember that it's not just about what we say, but how we say it."
Romney won only 27% of Latino voters – a lower percentage than the last two GOP presidential candidates. Many pointed to Romney's hardline stance on immigration, including his endorsement of a policy of "self-deportation," as a reason.
But according to the poll, immigration is not the most important issue for Hispanic voters – something similar surveys have reported.
Hispanics responding to the survey indicated that jobs and unemployment, rising healthcare costs, quality of public schools and the federal deficit all ranked above immigration in importance. Just over 50% of Hispanics said immigration was a "critical issue in the country today."
Hispanics deciding how to vote based on immigration does not "tell the whole story," said Jones. "When you look at economic policy, you look at healthcare, you look at education, these are all issue Hispanics rate very highly."
Jones also pointed out that while the news for Republicans was bad, that did not mean Democrats have cemented Hispanics as a reliable base-voting group, pointing primarily to the fact that the positive favorability for Democrats was "somewhat tepid."
Although the 61% of Hispanics who have a favorable view of the Democrats has remained constant since 2004, "only 20 percent of Hispanics have a very favorable view of the Democratic Party, while 3-in-10 Hispanics report having an unfavorable view of the Democratic Party."
"There are clearly challenges that the Democratic Party faces in really locking down Hispanic votes," concluded Jones, but he stressed that those issues are not as dire as those faced by the GOP.