New Pew poll shows Latinos still looking for a national Latino leader

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LatinaLista — From May 24 through July 28, 2013, the beginning of summer, Pew Research’s Hispanic Trends Project polled “5,103 Hispanic adults” about the status of a national Latino leader.

It’s important to note the dates of the polling because this was before Texas Senator Ted Cruz captured the national spotlight. Though Cruz is a polarizing figure and deemed by some Latinos to ‘not be Hispanic enough,’ it would be interesting to see what the people polled for this survey would have felt about Cruz.

Does garnering non-stop media attention make someone a national leader by today’s definition, especially among those who aren’t politically obliged one way or another? We’ll have to wait for the next poll but it’s obviously clear from this one, that when this survey was taken, the majority felt there wasn’t one single Latino or Latina who could be identified as a national leader.

In fact, 62 percent didn’t even know of one and 9 percent just flat out said there wasn’t one. However, while the majority felt that way, there were signs that some Latinos in the community are paying attention and see leaders where others don’t.

Among Hispanics of Cuban origin, some 40% named a leader. By contrast, just 25% of Mexican-origin Hispanics and Salvadoran-origin Hispanics named a leader, the lowest shares among Hispanic origin groups.

It’s not unusual for Cuban Americans to readily identify a leader since, at least in the state of Florida, Cuban Americans were running for political office and winning long before Latinos in other parts of the country petitioned to get their names on their local ballots.

Yet, what the survey did reveal is that it might prove challenging for Latinos to reach a consensus when it comes to identifying just one person as a national Latino leader since most Latinos tend to look within their own inner circles.

Named leaders are linked to Hispanic origin for some groups. For example, among Cubans, the most named Hispanic leader was Rubio (with 25%). He is of Cuban origin and represents Florida, where 70% of U.S. Cubans reside. Among Puerto Ricans, Justice Sonia Sotomayor was most often named (with 11%). She is of Puerto Rican background and is from the Bronx (25% of Puerto Ricans reside in the New York-northeastern New Jersey metropolitan area).

Another possible insight from the poll is that the more assimilated a Latino feels, the less he/she may feel strongly that even a Latino leader is needed.

According to the poll, 60 percent of English-dominant Latinos feel that it’s important to have a national Latino leader. But ask Spanish-dominant and bilingual Latinos, and 85% and 74% respectively, think it’s very important to have a national Latino leader.

However, the biggest takeaway from the poll is that the majority of Latinos do feel having a national Latino leader is needed — and he or she just hasn’t arrived — yet.

A few more findings from the poll are:

  • Those who see “a lot” of shared values among Hispanics in the U.S. are the most likely to say a national leader is needed. Fully 82% of this group say it is extremely or very important for the U.S. Hispanic community to have a national leader, compared with 72% among Hispanics who say U.S. Hispanics have only “some” values in common and 69% among those who say Hispanics share “only a little” or no values.
  • The terms used to describe identity are linked to immigrant generation. Among foreign-born Latinos, two-thirds (66%) say they describe themselves most often by their Hispanic origin term (for example, Mexican, Colombian, Salvadoran). Among second-generation Latinos, 48% say the same, while among Latinos in the third and higher generation, just 20% do this.
  • Among Latinos with Puerto Rican origin, while 55% say they most often use the term “Puerto Rican” to describe their identity, 28%”—more than any other group—most often use the term “American. (People born in Puerto Rico are U.S. citizens by birth.) Foreign-born Hispanics are nearly twice as likely as native-born Hispanics to usually use their Hispanic origin term to describe themselves—66% versus 36%. When it comes to using the term “American” most often to describe themselves, the pattern reverses: the native born are four times as likely as the foreign born to do so, 42% versus 10%.
  • Half of Latinos say they have no preference for either the terms “Hispanic” or “Latino.” However, when a preference is expressed, Hispanic (33%) is preferred over Latino (15%) by a margin of 2-1.
  • Some 57% of Puerto Ricans, 55% of Cubans and 53% of Dominicans say they think of themselves as a typical American. (People born in Puerto Rico are U.S. citizens by birth.) By contrast, just one-third of Salvadorans (35%) and other Central Americans (33%) say the same.
  • Two-thirds (66%) of native-born Hispanics say they think of themselves as a typical American, while 31% say they think of themselves as very different from a typical American. By contrast, views among the foreign born are reversed. Some 37% say they consider themselves a typical American, and 53% say they consider themselves as very different from a typical American.
  • When asked how much values U.S. Hispanics have in common with people living in their country of Hispanic origin, 38% say “a lot,” 34% say “some,” and 25% say “only a little” or “almost nothing.”
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