Latina Lista: News from the Latinx perspective > Palabra Final > Politics > New Survey on Latino Voters Seems Seriously Flawed

New Survey on Latino Voters Seems Seriously Flawed

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 except…

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 — because, as we’ve seen, two different sets of answers emerge.

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  • Horace
    April 3, 2008 at 5:54 am

    “While there are many Latinos, myself included, who advocate for the fair and equal rights of the undocumented…………..”
    Fair and equal compared to whom? What you are asking is for an exception to our immigration policy for the “undocumented”, a path to citizenship that wont be available to those foreigners who don’t have a border with the U.S. That’s hardly fair, now, is it? Fair and equal to the citizen who’s either born here or gone through all the established rules? The system is unfair to you because it requires people to follow rules that you don’t like. And you don’t like the rules because it inconveniences your friends and relatives, not because they are morally wrong. Let’s face it, you want to make the rules so that they reflect your own narrow interests and purposes, not the nation’s interests as a whole. What’s happened here is that Mexicans et al, have rushed the gates and when they’re evicted it’s suddenly the rules that are at fault. This kind of convoluted self-centered thinking is what most Americans find disturbing.

  • Frank
    April 3, 2008 at 7:58 am

    Horace, you hit the nail right on the head. Also based on the survey’s results I would say it reflected quite accurately how Hispanics feel in this country.

  • laura
    April 3, 2008 at 10:49 am

    Dear Marisa,
    I agree these survey results appear questionable. I would go even further and say, there are not two types of Latino residents – but a huge, very varied, continuous, not separable spectrum.
    My neighborhood is about 30% Latino. Few have been here 2 generations. Very few are from Mexico. Most are from the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Cuba, El Salvador, Guatemala. Obviously each of these countries of origin is very different, so that the difficulties that have driven people to come here are also different. Some – the Puertoricans – have all citizen rights. Some – the Cubans – tend to support any Republican, period.
    As you say, the economy is hugely important for all. So is the war – not just because of their loved ones being killed, but because they know how the war and the economy are linked.
    But with respect to immigration, I suspect sentiments are quite similar: that undocumented people need a path to citizenship. That the ugly racist scapegoating must stop.
    Why do even Puertoricans, who are citizens automatically, feel this way? Because of course they are also affected. The racism affects everyone. The terror that ICE is spreading could affect a family member – because of course people have mixed families. People dance to each other’s music. They buy in the same grocery stores. They eat in each other’s restaurants.
    The amazing thing is the wealth of the many cultures that can enrich each other as they get to know each other here, joined by the language.
    With respect to racism – did I mention that many Latinos in my neighborhood look black? They know about racism they suffer as Latinos, and as black people.
    With respect to language – did I mention the Brazilians? They understand the Spanish-speakers, but vice-versa is harder! But you don’t have to understand Portuguese to love their amazing fruit juice drinks and their fabulous music. Try dancing to forro – it should be easy for a Texan! (you can find out why on youtube)
    In summary – as you point out, some issues are very important to all Latinos, as to native-born Americans: the economy, Iraq. I can’t speak to more than my personal knowledge, but that says: immigration reform, and an end to the racist hate speech all over the media, are very important issues to Latinos as well.

  • Dee
    April 3, 2008 at 1:52 pm

    Marisa, I agree with you. The Synovate study is extremely flawed. I am curious about which Hispanics they surveyed. I agree with you that the majority may be recent immigrants. I doubt they came to Dallas or San Antonio, to long established Latino neighborhoods. If they did, they would know our strong views on support of the military and our concerns about the Iraq War. Our concerns about the Economy, the housing crisis and for many of us, will SS and Medicare be there when we are ready to retire. I am going to look at their study website and see if they provide any additional information on who was surveyed.

  • Frank
    April 3, 2008 at 4:02 pm

    It is totally DISGUSTING to equate the rule of law and enforcing our immigration laws with racism!!
    It is totally DISGUSTING that some citizens care more about illegal foreigners than their own country’s sovereingty, laws and it’s citizens.
    It is totally DISGUSTING to flame our law enforcement including ICE for doing their jobs.
    It is totally DISGUSTING to expect law breakers to get on a path to citizenship rather than to be deported.
    What happened in the Hispanic culture to be so disrespectful of this country?

  • Texano78704
    April 3, 2008 at 5:25 pm

    Tom Mularz at Synovate is really clueless. I’m sure there a differences between first generation citizens and those latinos whose families have always been in the US or for many generations. There are also regional differences. Isn’t it time for these clowns to get rid of the their one-size-fits-all cultural crap?

  • Frank
    April 7, 2008 at 2:32 pm

    It certainly seems in the illegal immigration debate that it is a one-size-fits-all viewpoint with most Hispanics.

  • Steve
    April 23, 2008 at 2:44 am

    Synovate provides its panelists with a voice to be heard by some of the largest companies in the world….!

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