LatinaLista — The market research firm Synovate wanted to do a survey showing how whites, blacks, Asians and Hispanic voters feel about the major issues being debated in these presidential elections.
Nothing wrong with that. The more insight in knowing the priorities of different groups of voters is helpful to campaigns in knowing how to tailor their messages, to journalists in focusing on stories to highlight within a particular ethnic community and to the average person who is curious as to what common ground they may have with their neighbors on important issues.
Surveys are also a way to validate what may be known anecdotally but never documented.
Yet, the new survey released by Synovate doesn’t provide the expected validation on Hispanic voters one would think. In fact, the survey presents a distorted picture of Hispanic voters to the extent the question has to be asked: Who answered these questions?
The one statement that the new Synovate survey made regarding Hispanic voters that rang true was
While researching the influence of race in the upcoming presidential election, Synovate found that Hispanics’ political views are similar to those of the rest of the population exceptâ€¦
And this is a big “except”
immigration and the war in Iraq.
What the Synovate survey found which was disturbing because the authors then tended to generalize their findings to apply to all Latinos was that while all the other groups ranked the economy as the most important issue in the election, Hispanics surveyed ranked it after immigration.
And while the other groups said that same-sex marriages and gun control were the two least important issues, Latinos surveyed said same-sex marriages and the war in Iraq.
The reasoning for this gem, according to Tom Mularz, Senior Vice President at Synovate, was because:
Many Hispanics, as first generation immigrants to the US, do not yet have family members serving in the military. This is in sharp contrast to African-American respondents since 30% are either in the military or have family members in the military. This was the highest of all the groups surveyed so the war is going to be a much bigger issue to them.”
Yet, what really was the icing on the cake with this survey was the fact that they found:
40% of Hispanic respondents say that a candidate’s ability to speak Spanish would influence their choice for president.
For anyone who doesn’t know that the Latino population is comprised of two distinct segments: recent immigrants and those who have been here longer than 2 generations, these findings may not send a red flag.
Yet for those of us who know better, it’s obvious this survey doesn’t reflect the true picture of this country’s Latino population.
Otherwise, they would know that there are 1.1 million Hispanic veterans of the US armed forces.
And also that we have a long history with military service.
I guess they missed the entire Ken Burns/PBS flap over Latino participation in WWII.
Or that a Pew Hispanic report found that:
A majority of Hispanic voters on Super Tuesday (53%) said that the economy is the most important issue facing the country, a greater share than that of white voters who said the same thing (45%).
Which only makes sense since the quality of life, like everyone’s, is dependent on how the economy does.
And finally, that 33.5 million Hispanics speak only English or are bilingual and speak English well.
It’s not surprising since 60% of Latinos are native born to the United States.
It seems rather obvious this survey spoke to recent-arrival Latinos and that makes a big difference when it comes to gauging civic participation, language usage, and even feelings on immigration.
While there are many Latinos, myself included, who advocate for the fair and equal rights of the undocumented and for an overhaul of the immigration system, priorities still lie with the economy because it’s the economy that most directly affects our way of life, rather than what legislation is passed regarding immigration.
The disservice this survey does is that it lumps all Latinos together. There’s no clearer case as to why it is not enough for survey companies to call up 1,000 Spanish surnamed individuals and quiz them in Spanish on their perspectives.
The distinction must be made between the two types of Latino residents â€” because, as we’ve seen, two different sets of answers emerge.