Released: July 22, 2004
Pew Hispanic Center/Kaiser Family Foundation
The 2004 National Survey Of Latinos: Politics and Civic Participation
II. Latinos and the 2004 Election
Weighing their choices this election year, Latino voters are largely focused on bread and butter issues, including education and health care, however many are concerned about the conduct of the war in Iraq. Although immigration does not rank high among the issues that Hispanics say will determine their votes, more Latino voters favor Democratic plans for resolving the status of unauthorized migrants than favor President Bush’s proposal for a temporary worker program. On health care clear majorities say that government should provide health insurance for those without it and that they are willing to pay higher taxes or higher insurance premiums to see greater coverage of the uninsured. Latinos are divided over abortion and gay marriage, but on both issues a majority of Hispanic voters say they could still vote for a presidential candidate who disagrees with their views.
Registered Latinos are most likely to identify themselves as Democrats. However, a sizable minority does not affiliate themselves with either party. The Democrats two-to-one advantage over the Republicans in party identification has not changed significantly since the 2000 presidential election. (Chart 1)
- Nearly half (45%) of registered Latinos consider themselves Democrats. Two in ten (20%) say that they are Republicans. Another two in ten (21%) say they are Independents, 8% say that they are “something else,” and 5% say that they do not know their party affiliation.
- Surveys similar in scope and methodology to this one found a virtually identical breakdowns in party identification in 1999 and 2002.1
Latinos of Cuban origins, as has long been the case, are more likely than other Latinos to say they are Republican. (Chart 2)
- Registered voters who trace their origins to Cuba make up six percent of the Latino electorate. More than half (52%) say they are Republicans. Less than two in ten (17%) say they are Democrats, and 9% say they are Independents.
- Registered voters of Mexican origins make up 60 percent of the Latino electorate. Nearly half (47%) say they are Democrats, while 18 percent identify as Republicans and 22% say they are Independents.
- Registered voters of Puerto Rican origins account for 15% of the Latino electorate. Half (50%) are Democrats while 17% are Republicans and 15% are Independents.
Latino Republicans have higher incomes and are more likely to be foreign born than Latino Democrats, but otherwise there are few significant differences in their socio-economic characteristics. (Charts 3 and 4)
- A larger share of Latino registered voters who identify as Republicans than Latino registered voters who identify as Democrats report incomes above $50,000 a year (44% vs. 34%) while a much smaller share reports annual incomes below $30,000 (19% vs. 33%).
- About a third (34%) of Latino Republicans are naturalized immigrants compared to about a quarter (26%) of Democrats.
- There are no major differences between Latino Republicans and Democrats in the shares that are Roman Catholics or other religious denominations, nor is there a significant difference in the number who say they are born-again Christians.
- Language use is also similar. English is the primary language for about the same shares of Latino Democrats (41%) as Republicans (40%).
Latino Democrats are more likely to say that discrimination is a major problem for Hispanics than Latino Republicans. (Chart 5)
- Nearly half (46%) of Latino Democrats say that discrimination is a major problem for Latinos, compared to less than a third (29%) of Republicans.
- Meanwhile, 41% of Democrats say that they personally or a family member has experienced discrimination in the past five years, compared to 20% of Republicans.
Three in ten registered Latinos say that they are paying close attention to the 2004 Presidential election, and another four in ten say that they are paying somewhat close attention. Those findings are similar to responses in surveys of the general population.2 (Chart 6)
- When asked how closely they are following the 2004 presidential race, 31% of registered Latinos say very closely, 41% say somewhat closely, 18% say not too closely, and 9% say that they are not following the race at all.
Reflecting a long-standing difference, Hispanic registered voters are far more concerned about education than the general public, ranking it as their number one issue.3 Interest in the economy and health care rate almost as highly among Latinos. Only half as many Hispanics (27%) said that immigration would be extremely important in determining their vote as cited education (54%). (Chart 7)
Percent of registered Latinos who say each will be extremely important in their vote for president this year:
- Education (54%)
- The economy and jobs (51%)
- Health care and Medicare (51%)
- U.S. campaign against terrorism (45%)
- The war in Iraq (40%)
- Crime (40%)
- Social Security (39%)
- Moral Values (36%)
- Taxes (33%)
- The federal budget deficit (30%)
- Immigration (27%)
War in Iraq
At the time of this survey, registered Latinos were evenly split on whether the United States made the right or wrong decision in using military force in Iraq. However, a majority of Hispanic voters are critical of President Bush’s conduct of the war and say they believe that the Bush Administration deliberately misled the American public in its justification for the war. Latino views of the war reflect their partisan loyalties. (Chart 8)
- Nearly half (46%) of registered Latinos say that the United States made the right decision in using military force against Iraq. The same amount (46%) say that the United States made the wrong choice. Seven percent say that they did not know.
- Latinos are somewhat more dubious about the decision to go to war than the general population. In the June 2004 Voter Attitudes Survey by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press, 55 percent of respondents said it was the right choice, compared to 38 percent who said it was the wrong decision.
- Most registered Latinos (54%) say that the Bush Administration deliberately misled the American public about how big a threat Iraq was to the United States before the war began. However, about four in ten (39%) disagree and 7% say that they do not know.
Most registered Latinos say that they disapprove of the way President Bush is handling the situation in Iraq and they do not think that he has a clear plan for bringing the situation in Iraq to a successful conclusion. (Chart 9)
- About four in ten (41%) registered Latinos say that they strongly disapprove of the way President Bush is handling the situation in Iraq, and another 15% say that they disapprove somewhat. About two in ten (22%) strongly approve of the way the President is handling the situation in Iraq and another 15% say they somewhat approve.
- The level of disapproval among Latino voters is roughly similar to the responses in surveys taken of the general population at the same time this survey was in the field. A Washington Post/ABC News poll conducted in mid-April recorded 54% disapproval and one conducted in mid-June found 55% disapproval. Among Latino registered voters the sum of those who disapprove strongly or somewhat is 56% in this survey.
- About six in ten (62%) registered Latinos say that they do not think that President Bush has a clear plan for bringing the situation in Iraq to a successful conclusion. About three in ten (29%) disagree and say they think he does have a clear plan.
- Again, Latino views mirror those of the general population. An ABC News/Washington Post survey conducted in mid-May found that 59% of the general population does not think the administration has a clear plan for the successful conclusion of the war.
- On both of these points smaller shares of Hispanics than the general public approve of President’s Bush’s handling of the war or feel the administration has a clear plan for a successful conclusion. (In the Washington Post/ABC News polls in April and June, 45% and 44% of respondents said they approved of President Bush’s handling of the war compared to 37% of Latino registered voters and in the May ABC News/Washington Post survey 39% of the general population said the president had a clear plan for ending the war successfully compared to 29% of registered Latinos.) This likely reflects the Democratic party tilt among registered Latinos.
The divisions among Latino registered voters over the war reflect their partisan loyalties in which the Democrats hold an overall advantage. (Chart 9)
- On the question of President Bush’s handling of the war, for example, 76% of Latino Republicans approve while 73% of Democrats disapprove. Independents clearly lean towards disapproval 58% to 37%.
- Latino Republicans are somewhat less supportive of the president on the question of whether he has a plan to end the war successfully with a quarter (24%) saying he does not and 65% saying that he does. An overwhelming share of Latino Democrats (79%) and a sizeable majority of Independents (63%) said President Bush does not have a clear plan for bringing the situation in Iraq to a successful conclusion.
Most Latino registered voters could still vote for a presidential candidate who differed with their views on the war. (Chart 10)
- A slim majority of Latinos (53%) said they could still vote for a presidential candidate if they agreed with him on other issues but not on the war in Iraq. A substantial minority (39%) said they could not vote for a presidential candidate whose views on Iraq differed from theirs.
Registered Latinos say that a number of different health care issues will be important in their vote for president this year including the cost of health care, the number of Americans without health insurance, Medicare, and the Prescription drug benefit for seniors. (Chart 11)
The percent of registered Latinos who say that each will be important to their vote:
- The cost of health care and insurance (88%; 49% say extremely)
- The number of Americans without health insurance (84%; 47% say extremely)
- Prescription drug benefits for seniors (83%; 44% say extremely)
- Medicare (81%; 39% say extremely)
The vast majority of registered Latinos say that they think the government should provide health insurance for those without it. Furthermore, most say that they would be willing to pay more in higher health insurance premiums or higher taxes to increase the number of Americans who have health insurance. (Chart 12)
- About eight in ten (81%) registered Latinos say that the government should provide health insurance for Americans without insurance. Thirteen percent disagree.
- Six in ten (60%) registered Latinos would be willing to pay higher insurance premiums or higher taxes in order to increase the number of Americans who have health insurance. About one-third (34%) would not be willing to do this.
- Latino views on these matters largely supersede partisan loyalties in clear contrast to their views on the war in Iraq. Among Latino Democrats 89% say that the government should provide health insurance to those who lack it compared to 70% of Republicans and 75% of Independents. On the willingness to pay to increase the number of people with coverage 61% of both Democrats and Republicans answered affirmatively along with 57% of Independents.
Most registered Latinos are positive about the effects of undocumented and illegal immigrants on the U.S. economy, but a significant minority is not. (Chart 13)
- Six in ten (60%) registered Latinos say that undocumented or illegal immigrants help the economy by providing low-cost labor. However, about three in ten (31%) say that these immigrants hurt the economy by driving wages down.
Most registered Latinos think that the United States should allow the same number or increase the number of Latin Americans who come to work in this country legally. (Chart 13)
- Nearly half of registered Latinos (46%) say that the United States keep the number of Latin Americans allowed to come and work in this country legally the same. Another 30% say that they should increase the number.
- However, one in six (16%) say that the number of Latin Americans allowed to work in this country legally should be reduced.
Slightly more than half of registered Latinos responded favorably when asked about the immigration reform plan proposed by President Bush in January that would allow some workers now in the United States to remain as temporary workers on the condition that they returned to their countries of origin in several years. A much larger majority favored the plan endorsed by Sen. John F. Kerry and other Democrats that would allow undocumented Latino immigrants to gain permanent legal status and eventually citizenship. (Chart 14)
- Most registered Latinos (54%) would favor President Bush’s proposal for a temporary worker program while four in ten (40%) would oppose this plan.
- Latino Democrats were split over the proposal with 46% favoring and 48% opposing. Independent supported it 55% to 38%. Republican support for the president’s plan was stronger with 64% approving of it, but 29% of Republicans opposed it.
- The vast majority of registered Latinos (84%) would favor the Democratic alternative that would give unauthorized migrants a means to legalize their status. Just over one in ten (13%) would oppose this proposal.
- Latinos supported the Democratic alternative, which was embraced by Senator Kerry after the poll was conducted, in equal measure regardless of their partisan loyalties. Democrats and Independents supported it (83%) and 86% of Republicans also favored it.
Looking to future flows of immigration from Latin America, registered Latinos are more likely to favor giving all legal immigrants from Latin America the opportunity to stay in the United States and become citizens instead of creating a temporary worker program that would require them return to their country of origin. (Chart 15)
- Three in four (74%) registered Latinos say that they would prefer that all immigrants who come to the United States legally should have a chance to live here permanently and eventually become U.S. citizens. However, around two in ten (22%) would prefer that immigrants come to the United States through a temporary workers program which allows them to stay here for a number of years but then requires them to go back to their country of origin.
- On this point too, Latino views superseded partisan identification with Democrats (73%), Republicans (71%) and Independents (72%) favoring a system that ensured future immigrants permanent legal status and the opportunity to become citizens.
Most registered Latinos say the tax cuts enacted in 2001 have not made much of a difference or they do not know if they have made a difference. The remainder of registered Latinos are split on whether the tax cuts have been good or bad. (Chart 16)
- Of registered Latinos, about two in ten (23%) say that the tax cuts enacted in 2001 have been good for the economy, another two in ten (21%) say they have been bad for the country, and one third (33%) say that the tax cuts have not made much of a difference either way. Two in ten (21%) say they do not know whether the tax cuts have been good or bad.
- Republicans are much more likely than Democrats or Independents to be positive about the cuts. Over four in ten (44%) say they have been good for the economy, compared to 27% of Independents and 12% of Democrats.
Abortion and Same-Sex Marriage
Registered Latinos are slightly more likely to say that abortion should be legal rather than illegal. (Chart 17)
- About one half of registered Latinos say that abortion should be legal. That includes 17% who say that it should be legal in all cases and 32% who say that it should be legal in most cases.
- Just under half (44%) of registered Latinos say that abortion should be illegal. That includes 23% who say that it should be illegal in all cases and 21% who say that it should be illegal in most cases.
- The views of Latino registered voters on abortion are similar to those of the general population. An ABC News/ Washington Post survey in May found that 54% of Americans believe abortion should be legal. Averaging results of seven ABC News surveys going back to 2000 show the same level of support for legal abortion in the general population.
- Latinos differ in their views of abortion according to their partisan loyalties with 56% of Democrats believing it should be legal compared to 41% of Republicans and 48% of Independents.
- Among registered voters, Latino Roman Catholics are more likely (51%) to say that abortion should be legal than Protestants (37%) or evangelical Christians (39%).
Registered Latinos are split on whether or not there should be a constitutional amendment of the sort supported by President Bush that would prohibit gay marriages. (Chart 18)
- Just under half (45%) of registered Latinos would favor a constitutional amendment that would define marriage as a union between one man and one woman thereby prohibiting legally sanctioned marriages for same sex couples. Another 48% of registered voters would oppose this type of amendment.
- Significant numbers of Latino Democrats (40%) favor the constitutional amendment, and significant numbers of Latino Republicans (34%) oppose it.
- More Latino registered voters who are evangelical Christians (56%) and Protestants (52%) support the amendment than Roman Catholics (44%).
- A survey of the general population conducted by the Gallup Organization in early May found that 51% of Americans favored the constitutional amendment and 45% opposed it.
Just over half of registered Latinos said that they could vote for a presidential candidate if they disagreed with him on abortion and same sex marriages. However, for about four in ten registered voters, disagreement on these issues could prevent them from voting for a candidate. (Chart 19)
Just about half of registered voters say that they could vote for a presidential candidate if they agreed with him on other issues, but not on the issue of:
- Abortion (54%)
A constitutional amendment against same sex marriages (52%)
However, just about four in ten disagree, and say that they could not vote for a presidential candidate if they agreed on other issues, but not on the issue of:
- Abortion (38%)
- A constitutional amendment against same sex marriages (43%)
- Washington Post/Kaiser Family Foundation/Harvard University National Survey of Latinos, (Fielded June – August 1999): 48% Democrat vs. 19% Republican. Pew Hispanic Center/ Kaiser Family Foundation National Survey of Latinos 2002, (Fielded April – June 2002): 49% Democrat vs. 20% Republican. ↩
- The Pew Research Center for the People and the Press, Voter Attitudes Survey, 28% following very closely in June 2004, 31% in April 2004. ↩
- In The Pew Research Center for the People and the Press, Voter Attitudes Survey for June 2004 education ranked 7th in the list of issues respondents said they would like to hear presidential candidates talk about. ↩