03 October 2002
U.S. Hispanics Ambivalent About Loyalty to Major Political Parties
(New survey finds support for Democrats broad but shallow) (870)
Washington -- Hispanic voters in the United States show a strong
preference for the Democratic Party over the Republican Party, but
that support for Democrats is combined with "significant partisan
ambivalence," says a new national survey of Hispanic voters.
The survey suggests that "at a time of very sharp partisan divisions
in the United States, Hispanics are not ideologically committed" to
either of the two major U.S. political parties, said Roberto Suro,
director of the Pew Hispanic Center which conducted the survey in
conjunction with the Kaiser Family Foundation.
Suro said at an October 3 news conference that support for the
Democrats is "broad but shallow." Among registered Hispanic voters,
about half identify themselves as Democratic (49 percent), with
one-fifth saying they are Republicans (20 percent), and another fifth
describing themselves as independents (19 percent).
But many registered Hispanic voters who identify themselves as
Democrats express ambivalence about their political leanings,
especially when Republican President George Bush is added to the
equation, said Suro. The survey indicates, said Suro, that despite a
usual preference for Democrats, Hispanic voters are in play when a
Republican candidate appeals to them.
The "National Survey of Latinos: The Latino Electorate," found that 45
percent of Hispanics believe the Democratic Party is more concerned
with Hispanics than the Republican Party, whereas 10 percent of
Hispanic voters believe the reverse -- but four in 10 feel there is no
difference between the two parties.
When dealing with the U.S. economy, 53 percent of registered Hispanic
voters say they have more confidence in Democrats, versus 27 percent
who say they have more confidence in the Republicans. But when asked
their preference for Democrats in Congress or for Bush in dealing with
the economy, the Democratic advantage dramatically lessens: 43 percent
say they have more confidence in the Democrats, while 42 percent favor
The survey shows that Hispanics' views on other issues contrast with
those of other groups in the United States. For instance, over half of
the Hispanic electorate would prefer to pay higher taxes to support a
larger government that provides more services. By contrast, majorities
of registered white and African-American voters would prefer to pay
lower taxes and have a smaller government.
However, many Hispanics are conservative when it comes to social
issues, such as abortion. More than half of Hispanic voters think
abortion should be illegal in most or all cases, which differs from
the views of a majority of white voters. In addition, registered
foreign-born Hispanic voters hold more conservative views than
Hispanics born in the United States. For example, 46 percent of
foreign-born Hispanics say that having a child without being married
is unacceptable, compared to 33 percent of native-born Hispanics.
Suro said the distinctiveness of the Hispanic electorate is perhaps
best shown by comparing Hispanics' views with those of white voters
with the same party affiliation. For example, 52 percent of Hispanic
Republicans say they would rather pay higher taxes to support a larger
government, compared to only 17 percent of white Republicans.
Similarly, 34 percent of Hispanic Democrats believe divorce is
unacceptable, compared to 13 percent of white Democrats.
Mollyann Brodie, director of public opinion and media research for the
Kaiser Foundation, said at the news conference that as "immigration
transforms the Hispanic electorate, candidates and politicians will
increasingly be asked to respond to a population of voters whose
political views challenge conventional wisdom."
Registered Hispanic voters voice strong support for various
immigration proposals, the survey found. The vast majority (85
percent) favor a proposal that would give undocumented Latin American
immigrants working in the United States a chance to obtain legal
status. Almost 70 percent favor a guest worker proposal that would
allow Hispanic immigrants to enter the country legally to work for a
limited time and then return to their home countries. A majority of
non-Hispanics also support these proposals, but by significantly
smaller margins, the survey found.
About 75 percent of registered Hispanic voters think the United States
should allow more Latin Americans to come and work in the country
legally, while a smaller majority believes undocumented immigrants
help the economy by providing low-cost labor. By contrast, about
two-thirds of white and African-American voters feel that illegal
immigrants hurt the economy by driving wages down.
The survey found that U.S. Hispanics believe the most important issue
in determining their vote for a candidate is education. Other issues
important to Hispanics are the economy and health care.
Suro said the Hispanic electorate has considerable potential for
growth. For instance, there are now 2.8 million Hispanics 12 to 17
years old who are native-born U.S. citizens. They all will be old
enough to vote in the November 2008 presidential election.
Another fact that will affect future U.S. elections is that six in 10
Hispanics who plan to become U.S. citizens are not aligned with either
the Democratic or Republican parties. The votes of these new citizens
are sure to be sought after by both political parties.
(Distributed by the Office of International Information Programs, U.S.
Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)