Hispanics' varying views yield surprises
Miami Herald
Apr. 05, 2004
BY OSCAR CORRAL ocorral@herald.com

A poll commissioned by The Herald shows that Hispanic Americans differ widely on views and values and are not a monolithic target for political parties.
Pro-choice, born-again Christians who support the death penalty and speak more English than Spanish at home? Not a typical portrait of Hispanic voters.

But according to a new nationwide poll commissioned by The Herald, a surprising number of Hispanics fit one or all of those categories. The revelations come as both major political parties are trying to court Hispanics for a boost in November's election.

Besides a snapshot of Hispanic political inclinations, the Herald/Zogby International Hispanic Poll shows that Hispanic values and ideals are just as fluid and diverse as the many Latino communities across the United States.

''It has always intrigued me that Hispanics agree with Democrats on issues, but with Republicans on values,'' said John Zogby, who polled 1,000 likely Hispanic voters last week.

For example, Hispanic voters overwhelmingly support the death penalty, prayer in schools and privatization of Social Security. About half of those polled are also pro-choice on the abortion issue, despite their Roman Catholic background, and support the idea of prohibiting undocumented immigrants from receiving government aid such as food stamps and Medicaid.


Despite some major hurdles to overcome, such as language and discrimination, Hispanic voters are also well educated, well paid and politically moderate. Of those polled, 67 percent earned more than $35,000 a year, 75 percent had at least some college credits, and 64 percent described themselves as moderate to very conservative, with only 30 percent calling themselves liberal or progressive.

Of those polled, 58 percent are Mexican American, 10 percent Puerto Rican and 3.4 percent Cuban American. The margin of error for the entire poll is 3.2 percentage points.

Most Hispanic voters are also unhappy with President Bush's policy toward Latin America, an issue that 91 percent consider important.

''I tend to be conservative. I have a lot of mixed feelings and emotions as far as allowing open borders,'' said Anthony Ceceņa, 50, a San Diego manufacturing representative who responded to the poll. ``I'm against undocumented immigrants getting federal aid. I don't think [Bush] has done anything for Latin America, really.''

Ceceņa also thinks Hispanics are a rising force in the United States.

''This country is changing,'' he said. ``We're taking over.''

The poll also shows that most likely Hispanic voters would put their families before their careers. Zogby posed the following question: ``If you were offered a promotion that would cause you to move away from your family and community, would you accept the job or turn it down?''

Sixty percent said they would turn the offer down, and the number shoots up to 74 percent if the promotion involves leaving immediate family members behind for extended periods.

Los Angeles resident and poll respondent Gloria Cruz, 58, knows this from experience. About four years ago, the women's-clothing manufacturer for which she worked for 13 years in Los Angeles, Swat Fame Inc., announced that it was shipping her position to Mexico. The firm gave her a choice: keep her job and move to Mexico, or get laid off.


'I said, `I've spent many years here, I have a family and I've been married for a long time. I'm not going to do it,' '' she said.

Cruz also remembers when she was standing in a grocery-store line and the store manager handed out coupons to the two non-Hispanic white women ahead of her because they had been waiting so long. The manager didn't offer her one.

In the poll, 49 percent of Hispanic voters said they have experienced discrimination because of their ethnicity.

''I went to her after and told her that she was prejudiced,'' Cruz said of her grocery-store experience. ``She thought I was a maid. But I am a very positive person, and I stick up for myself.''

A surprising number of Hispanic voters, about 18 percent, described themselves as Protestant. And of those, 71 percent labeled themselves born-again Christians, a group that heavily supports George W. Bush and is pro-life.


''That's a little phenomenon that has been snowballing over the years,'' Zogby said. ``While the overwhelming majority are Catholic, you are talking about a significant growth in evangelical [churches]. There's a lot of proselytizing going on in the Hispanic community.''

Seventy percent of Latino voters speak English at home, and an additional 10 percent speak Spanish as well. Only 19 percent speak exclusively Spanish at home. This appears to challenge the view that Hispanics take longer to assimilate than other ethnic groups.

One of those non-Catholic Hispanics who speaks only English is Alex Chavez, a third-generation Mexican American from the Oakland area in California.

Chavez, 27, was raised Episcopalian. He is pro-choice and thinks that the president has done a bad job on policy toward Latin America. And he would turn down a promotion if it took him away from his family.

''For me, it's important to stay where my family is,'' said Chavez, who responded to the survey. ``What you see more of in the white population is a willingness to relocate because the family nucleus tends to be a lot smaller.''


The poll also illustrates the stark political difference between Cuban-American voters in South Florida and Hispanics around the country. Cuban Americans are mostly Republican, support President Bush and tend to be more unilateralist than other Hispanics when it comes to U.S. foreign policy.

Enrique Soto, who lives in Little Havana, told pollsters that he thinks Bush has done a good job on policy toward Latin America, even in the case of Cuba. He said Cubans are more conservative than other Latinos because of their history.

''Cubans are so conservative because they are victims of an extreme case of leftism,'' he said. ``The Cuba problem differentiates us from the rest of Latin Americans.''

All of those nuances make it difficult for Hispanic voters to be targeted as a monolithic voting bloc and market.

''The Hispanic community,'' Zogby said, ``is a dynamic, fluid section of the voting electorate.''

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