WRNHA Home Page   Washington State Republican
   National Hispanic Assembly




The New York Times 

October 4, 2002

Hispanic Voters Hard to Profile, Poll Finds



WASHINGTON, Oct. 3 — Though Hispanic voters identify more with Democrats than they do with Republicans, they have little party loyalty and defy easy categorization on issues like taxes and abortion, according to a new poll by the Pew Hispanic Center.

This ideological ambivalence, coupled with a surging population of younger voters, makes Hispanics an attractive voting bloc that could swing from one party to another, the survey showed.

So far, the opportunity to capitalize on their growing numbers has largely been squandered. While more and more Hispanics have registered to vote, fewer have actually cast ballots.

Hispanics have always been a hard group to characterize politically because their opinions typically vary by nationality, the region where they live and whether they were born in or outside the United States.

"There is a mixture of beliefs and attitudes that are very hard to pigeonhole," said Roberto Suro, director of the Pew Hispanic Center, which conducted the survey along with the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. "Latinos are not necessarily a Democratic lock."

More than half the Latino Republicans questioned said they would rather pay higher taxes for more government services than pay lower taxes for fewer services, while 17 percent of non-Hispanic white Republicans stated that preference.

On social issues, Latino Democrats expressed more conservative values than their non-Latino white counterparts. Thirty-four percent of Hispanic Democrats said they believed that divorce was unacceptable, compared with 13 percent for non-Hispanic white Democrats. Twelve percent of Latino Democrats said they thought abortion should be legal in all cases, compared with 26 percent of non-Latino white Democrats who expressed the same belief.

"Latinos born outside the United States, as a group, have particularly more intense and socially conservative views than those born within the country," said Mollyann Brodie, vice president and director of public opinion and media research for the Kaiser Family Foundation.

The poll of 1,329 registered Hispanic voters, 838 non-Hispanic whites and 136 non-Hispanic African-Americans was conducted by telephone from April to June and has a margin of error of 3.6 percentage points. It is part of a broader survey of Latinos in the United States that will be released in December.

Among those interviewed, 45 percent said they were United States citizens who were registered to vote. Of those, nearly half called themselves Democrats, one-fifth said they were Republicans and another fifth labeled themselves independent.

Democrats, for the most part, have been more aggressive in reaching out to Hispanic voters.

"Republicans don't have an institutional network to get Hispanics out to vote," said Rodolfo de la Garza, a political science professor at Columbia University who conducted a separate study of Latino voting patterns for the Tomás Rivera Policy Institute, a research organization on Hispanic issues.

His analysis, of Harris County, Tex., and Los Angeles from 1992 to 1998, found that despite a spike in the number of Hispanics registered to vote, their turnout was usually poor.

But President Bush, who received 35 percent of the Hispanic vote in Texas, has helped narrow the gap between the two parties. Though only 27 percent of Latinos in the survey said they had more confidence in Republicans than Democrats on economic issues, the numbers changed sharply when Latinos were asked to choose between Democrats in Congress and President Bush. Forty-two percent said they had more confidence in Mr. Bush.

They also demonstrated party ambivalence in other ways. When asked which of the two major political parties is more concerned about Hispanics, 45 percent said the Democrats, but 40 percent said they sensed no difference between the two sides.

Education was cited as the most important issue by 58 percent of registered Latino voters, and it was especially important to Latinos who were born outside the United States. The economy was the next priority, followed by health care and Medicare.

Immigration was also an important topic. About half of the Hispanics surveyed said they thought too many immigrants were living in the United States. But about three-fourths said the United States should continue allowing the same number of Latin Americans into the country as it has been, or should allow more.

About half of Latino voters said they get their news on television in English. Twenty-seven percent said they watch English and Spanish news, and 19 percent tune in to Spanish newscasts most of the time.


Send mail to webmaster@wrnha.org with questions or comments about this web site.
Copyright © 2004 Washington Republican National Hispanic Assembly
Last modified: 04/24/03