Released: July 13, 2006
The Immigration Debate
2006 National Survey of Latinos
Latinos are feeling more discriminated against, politically energized and unified following the immigration policy debate and the pro-immigration marches this spring, according to the 2006 National Survey of Latinos conducted by the Pew Hispanic Center.
54% of Latinos see an increase in discrimination as a result of the debate over immigration reform
More than half (54%) of Latinos surveyed say they see an increase in discrimination as a result of the policy debate, and three-quarters (75%) say the debate will prompt many more Latinos to vote in November. Almost two-thirds (63%) think the pro-immigrant marches this year signal the beginning of a new and lasting social movement. And a majority (58%) now believes Hispanics are working together to achieve common goals — a marked increase from 2002, when 43% expressed confidence in Latino unity.
The 2006 National Survey of Latinos was conducted by telephone among a nationally representative sample of 2,000 Hispanic adults from June 5 to July 3, 2006. The survey has a margin of error of 3.8% for the full sample.
A growing number of Latinos are dissatisfied with both political parties
The survey shows that Latinos to some extent are holding the Republican Party responsible for what they perceive to be the negative consequences of the immigration debate, but the political impact of that perception is uncertain. Party affiliation among Latino registered voters has not changed significantly since the spring of 2004. However, the share of Latinos who believe the Republican Party has the best position on immigration has dropped from 25% to 16% in that time, with virtually the entire loss coming among foreign-born Hispanics (28% vs. 12%), who potentially represent an important and growing pool of future voters.
At the same time, the survey provides little solace for the Democratic Party, which showed no significant gains among Hispanic registered voters and which by some measures has lost some support. If anything, the survey shows that a growing number of Latinos are dissatisfied with both of the major parties. For example, one out of every four Hispanics (25%) now believes that neither political party has the best position on immigration issues, more than triple the share (7%) who felt that way just two years ago. Among registered voters, the share picking neither party on immigration has increased from 9% in 2004 to 20% in the current survey.
The 2006 National Survey of Latinos is the first major public opinion poll of the Hispanic population to be conducted since this spring’s pro-immigration marches and congressional debate. The survey helps provide answers to some of the most pressing questions that arose from those events. Among them:
- Do native-born Latinos feel threatened by a policy debate that has generated widespread denunciation of illegal immigration and resulted in numerous proposals to reduce or contain it? The survey indicates that this does seem to have happened. Among native-born and foreign-born Latinos, more than half (54%) say the immigration policy debate has made discrimination against Latinos more of a problem.
- Could the immigrant marches be the start of a new Latino social movement? Most Latinos think so. Native- and foreign-born Latinos in almost equal measures (62% and 64%, respectively) view the marches as indeed the beginning of a new Hispanic social movement that will go on for a long time rather than a one-time phenomenon. The share of Latinos who see Hispanics from different countries working together to achieve common political goals is also on the rise, and a clear majority of foreign-born Latinos (66%) and a substantial minority of the native born (44%) said they would participate in a future march.
- Will the marches and the debate have an impact on how Latinos will vote? Unclear. Across the board, including among registered voters, about three-quarters of Latinos predict that more Hispanics will vote in the November election as a result of the immigration debate, but the survey did not produce clear signs of a shift in Latino loyalties toward the two major political parties compared with surveys conducted in 2004 and earlier.
- Is the immigration debate relevant mainly to Mexicans, or are all Latinos equally affected by it and in general agreement on its consequences? Yes and no. A majority of Latinos, regardless of country of origin, believe that the immigration debate will drive more Hispanics to vote and that the marches signal the rise of a new and lasting movement. But Puerto Ricans and Cubans, who are not directly affected by the immigration debate and who are political opposites in many ways, have more restrictive views about immigration policy and are not convinced the marches created a favorable impression of undocumented migrants.
A Note on Terminology
The terms Hispanic and Latino are used interchangeably in this report.
Unauthorized migrant refers to a person who resides in the United States but who is not a U.S. citizen, has not been admitted for permanent residency and is not in any of the authorized temporary statuses permitting residency or work.
A Note on Charts
Percentages in charts may not add up to 100 because of rounding.