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Hispanics not solid for either U.S. party
Houston Chronicle ^ | October 4, 2002 | Julie Mason

Posted on 10/04/2002 6:51:06 AM PDT by Dog Gone

WASHINGTON -- Neither major political party has a firm handle on the voting preferences of the nation's growing Hispanic population, according to a national poll released Thursday.

Though more Hispanics in the survey identified themselves as Democrats, many split from the party on social issues such as abortion and gay rights. Hispanics who said they were Republicans frequently disagree with GOP policies favoring smaller government and lower taxes, according to the poll.

"A large part of the Latino population doesn't see either party as representing their interests," said Roberto Suro, director of the Pew Hispanic Center, a Washington-based research organization that participated in the poll.

The results underscore the challenges both parties face in trying to attract Hispanics, the nation's fastest-growing demographic.

"The idea of a national Latino viewpoint is something we really need to move away from," said Mollyann Brodie, director of public opinion and media research at the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. "The political language we normally use, I think, doesn't work well when we talk about this population."

The Pew Center and the Kaiser Family Foundation, a California-based nonprofit health care philanthropy, conducted the telephone survey of 4,213 adults, including 2,929 who identified themselves as Hispanic, between April 4 and June 11. Results on the Hispanic electorate are part of a larger National Survey of Latinos to be released at the end of the year.

The margin of error is plus or minus 3.6 percentage points for results on Hispanics, plus or minus 3.7 percentage points for Anglos, and plus or minus 11.3 percentage points for blacks.

As part of the study, pollsters broke out voter turnout numbers for selected precincts in Harris County, which has a high concentration of Hispanic voters.

The results bolstered what many local politicians and party organizers have frequently conjectured -- that Hispanics do not vote in numbers that reflect their population.

According to the poll, voter registration went up among Hispanics in Harris County from 1992 to 1998. During the same time period, the number of Hispanics voting in elections dropped.

Specifically, the number of registered voters with Hispanic surnames increased from 95,441 in 1992 to 170,548 in 1998. In 1992, 55,412 Hispanics voted on Election Day, a number that peaked at 71,516 in 1996 and dropped to 41,077 in 1998, the poll showed.

"Nobody understands why Latinos vote at the low rate at which they vote, and the only thing we can surmise is that they tend to live in areas that nobody cares about," said Rodolfo de la Garza, a Columbia University political scientist.

Other results from the national poll showed that Hispanics who live in ethnically integrated neighborhoods are more likely to vote than those living in areas with higher concentrations of Hispanics.

The largest untapped pool of Hispanic voters -- those with the weakest party loyalties -- tend to be younger, lower income and less educated, the pollsters said.

Yet most political advertising aimed at Hispanics targets those who are older, wealthier and better educated and who tend to have loyalties to a particular political party, according to the poll.

"Latino candidates and those trying to win the Latino vote are going about it in exactly the wrong way," de la Garza said.

In recent election cycles, Republicans have dramatically stepped up efforts to draw more Hispanics into the party, by grooming new Hispanic candidates, targeting the party's message to Hispanic voters and launching Spanish-language political television shows in heavily Hispanic markets.

The Democratic Party, which has traditionally maintained a significant edge among Hispanic voters, also is working hard to keep those voters in the party and attract younger Hispanics to the political process.

According to the pollsters, party loyalty among Hispanics is broad but shallow, so the party with a magic-bullet message that finds a way to retain its base and also appeal to the politically contradictory interests of Hispanics has a chance to greatly bolster its Hispanic membership.

"Latino attitudes do defy easy categorization," Brodie said. "They fail to fit into our typical boxes."

About half of the polled Hispanics who said they were registered voters also said they were Democrats. About 20 percent said they were Republican; and 19 percent said they were independent.

Among Hispanics who said they were registered voters, 45 percent said they believe the Democratic Party is more aligned with their interests than the GOP.

But, when asked whether they have more confidence in President Bush or Democrats in Congress in handling the economy, Hispanic voters are divided, with 42 percent saying Bush and 43 percent saying Democrats in Congress.

"(Bush's) popularity erodes partisan loyalty," Suro said.

The most important issues for Hispanics were education, the economy, health care, Medicare and Social Security, the pollsters said.

Hispanics who said they were voters differed from Anglo and black voters in their willingness to pay higher taxes and their preference for the size of government. While 55 percent of registered Hispanics said they would pay higher taxes to support a larger government, about 61 percent of whites and 52 percent of blacks said they prefer lower taxes and smaller government.

Hispanics and blacks, which in Harris County and other regions with diverse populations are frequently at odds politically, share many of the same views on social issues, the poll found.

Nearly 70 percent of Hispanic voters and 65 percent of black voters said they feel abortion is unacceptable, compared with 52 percent of Anglo voters who felt the same way.

Similarly, 39 percent of Hispanic voters and 41 percent of black voters feel having a child outside of marriage is unacceptable, while 45 percent of Anglo voters said so.

TOPICS: Culture/Society; Politics/Elections

1 posted on 10/04/2002 6:51:06 AM PDT by Dog Gone
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To: Dog Gone

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2 posted on 10/04/2002 6:53:45 AM PDT by William McKinley
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To: Dog Gone
70% of Hispanics are pro-life?

That's our magic bullet.
3 posted on 10/04/2002 7:18:12 AM PDT by hchutch
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To: William McKinley
The headline "Hispanics not solid for either U.S. Party" is a little different from the headline in our local paper this morning for the same story.

Our local liberal rag has the same story under the headline "Latino voters favor Democrats"

It shows how headlines can be changed to influence readers.

4 posted on 10/04/2002 7:22:24 AM PDT by Russ
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To: Dog Gone
"Latino attitudes do defy easy categorization," Brodie said. "They fail to fit into our typical boxes."

GOOD! Perhaps this is one demographic group that will defy the herd mentality and vote with their brains - in which case an issues oriented candidate stands a solid chance for getting their support. The 90+% support of democrats by other constituencies like the black vote has garnered the demographic group naught. Perhaps the hispanics are wiser than that?


5 posted on 10/04/2002 7:24:12 AM PDT by MortMan
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To: hchutch
And if Bush can put a hispanic conservative on the Supreme Court, it will move significant numbers of hispanic voters into the Republican Party. The Democrats would be furious.
6 posted on 10/04/2002 7:24:15 AM PDT by Dog Gone
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To: Dog Gone

Why else are the Dems so worried? "Culture of life" is probably the big gun in the reach for Hispanics, and if enough of them switch on that issue alone...

The Dems are toast.
7 posted on 10/04/2002 7:29:08 AM PDT by hchutch
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To: MortMan
I'd be interested in seeing the full results of the poll. My guess is that middle income hispanic families and higher tend to vote Republican.

Low income families and individuals tend to vote Democrat, regardless of race.

One of the big differences between hispanics and blacks is that hispanics don't have national poverty pimps working overtime to keep them on the plantation.

8 posted on 10/04/2002 7:29:36 AM PDT by Dog Gone
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To: Dog Gone
" My guess is that middle income hispanic families and higher tend to vote Republican."


9 posted on 10/04/2002 8:21:20 AM PDT by RoseofTexas
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To: MortMan
"A large part of the Latino population doesn't see either party as representing their interests,"

And why should they, neither party is. The number one issue that we republicans are using to attract them over to the party is open borders and amnesty for illegal aliens. Hardly original. Not only is this blatant pandering insulting to anyone with a brain, it does not represent the majority of Hispanic American opinion which also wants reduced immigration.

Hispanics are disproportionaly impacted by mass immigration by reduced wages. It's no wonder that our current approach has been met with a big yawn. There are plenty of rock solid wedge issues out there we could be taking advantage of, but alas I fear that the Party is more interested in keeping wages down than attracting new voters.

We can debate the merits of low wages on the economy, but the current strategy of recruitment is in its essence flawed.

10 posted on 10/04/2002 9:57:34 AM PDT by usurper
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