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Hispanics Back Big Government And Bush, Too…No Voting Bloc

Hispanics Back Big Government And Bush, Too


August 3, 2003
Copyright © 2003
THE NEW YORK TIMES. All rights reserved. 

Hispanics view the Democratic Party as better able than the Republican Party to manage the economy, create jobs and improve the nation's public school system, according to a New York Times/CBS News poll. But they admire President Bush and have embraced positions – from supporting tax cuts to opposing abortion and some gay rights – that have typically been identified with Republicans.

The poll, an unusually extensive effort to measure the political and social attitudes of those who call themselves Hispanic, revealed a complex challenge facing both parties as they battle to command the support of a segment of the electorate that is on the verge of rivaling African-Americans in numbers.

Although the White House and the Democratic Party have approached Hispanics as if they were an ethnic group with common experiences that predictably inform voting behavior – the poll suggests the extent to which Hispanics are less than monolithic in their background, culture and political beliefs.

In many ways, the Hispanic respondents questioned over the course of two weeks mirrored traditional Democratic ethnic constituencies. They were twice as likely to call themselves Democrats as Republicans, viewed the Democratic Party more favorably than the Republican Party and, by a margin of 49 percent to 21 percent, said the Democratic Party was more likely to care about the needs of Hispanics.

A majority said they supported a bigger government providing more services, backed affirmative action and questioned whether the war in Iraq was worth the cost. By a 2-to-1 ratio, Hispanics said the Democratic Party was more likely to ensure a strong economy than Republicans, and 50 percent said Democrats were more likely to create jobs, compared with 20 percent who said the same about Republicans.

But the respondents identified with Republicans on a host of issues the party has emphasized over the past two years. They applauded tax cuts, calling them better economic policy than reducing deficits, and embraced the use of school vouchers. They were less likely than the population at large to support the legalization of homosexual relations between consenting adults. And 44 percent of Hispanics said abortion should not be legal, compared with 22 percent of non-Hispanics.

The Times/CBS News poll also found that among the general electorate, President Bush's job approval rating has dropped to 54 percent, a 13-point fall, since May, reflecting growing concerns about the economy and doubts about the war in Iraq. The last time Mr. Bush's job approval rating was at 54 percent was in February, before the war.

The poll was conducted by telephone from July 13 to 27, with 3,092 adults nationwide, 1,074 of whom described themselves as Hispanic. It has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus three percentage points for the entire poll and plus or minus four percentage points for Hispanics. Sample sizes for most Hispanic nationalities, like Cubans or Dominicans, were too small to break out the results separately.

The poll signaled that the competition to court Hispanic voters – whom White House aides have identified as one of the critical groups of swing voters in next year's election – is wide open, notwithstanding the efforts by each party in recent years to strengthen its support among these voters in anticipation of the 2004 contest.

That impression was underlined by follow-up interviews with some of the respondents.

"The Republicans are closer to my value system," said Abigail Hansen, 45, an independent voter from West Valley City, Utah, who was born in Uruguay. "The Democrats are pro abortion and pro homosexual marriage, and those are things my value system does not agree with."

But another independent voter, Shane Garcia, 31, a retail manager from Lincoln , Neb., whose family is from Mexico, said: "Since George W. Bush came into office, I have not seen things improve. Everything has gotten worse, including the economy, the budget, and the lack of jobs.

"I have a favorable view of the Democratic Party, because they do more to support the majority of Americans," Mr. Garcia continued. "They look out for the middle and working class."

Mr. Bush won the support of 35 percent of Hispanic voters in 2000; in this poll, 21 percent of Hispanics who say they are registered to vote said they would vote for his re-election.

Matthew Dowd, a pollster and senior adviser to Mr. Bush's re-election campaign, wrote a memorandum last year saying the president needed to win at least 40 percent of the support of Hispanic voters next year.

Still, Mr. Bush would appear to be in a fairly strong position with many of these voters; there are indications that his standing is stronger with Hispanics than his party's is.

Hispanics approved of Mr. Bush's job performance 52 to 38 percent, while 54 percent said that he "cares about the needs and problem of people like yourself." By contrast, just 40 percent of Hispanics said they had a favorable view of the Republican Party, while 60 percent said they had a favorable view of Democrats.

And one-third of Hispanics said they would be more likely to vote for a candidate for public office who spoke Spanish. Mr. Bush does, if perhaps not fluently.

The political portrait of Hispanics provided by this poll, if in many ways ambiguous, would suggest opportunities for both parties. In short, Hispanics have at once an expansive view of government, which reflects what many of the Democratic presidential candidates are saying, while holding decidedly conservative views on social issues, which reflect the positions of Mr. Bush.

Significantly, respondents had a more benevolent view of government than the nation at large.

The poll found that 75 percent of Hispanics said they wanted a larger government providing more services, as opposed to the smaller one with a limited role that has been advanced by Mr. Bush. By contrast, 40 percent of the general sample said they preferred a larger government. And 46 percent of Hispanic respondents said they trusted the government in Washington to do what was right always or most of the time; 36 percent of the total sample offered the same view.

The view of an aggressive government came from people who tended to be much more anxious about the future of the economy than the nation at large. Among Hispanics, 72 percent said they feared that they or someone in their household would be out of work within the next year. Among respondents at large, just 46 percent expressed such concerns.

"Here where I live they have closed four warehouses and stores – I see a major need for jobs," said Vickie Johnson, 27, a Californian of Mexican descent who is a Democrat.

Hispanics also reported lower household incomes: 47 percent reported incomes of under $30,000 a year, compared with 27 percent for non-Hispanics.

There is also a sharp divergence of views on Iraq: 49 percent of Hispanics said removing Saddam Hussein from power was not worth the potential loss of American life and other costs of attacking Iraq, compared with 39 percent of all respondents.

On other issues, like abortion and gay rights, the responses clearly broke away from the Democratic model. Hispanics were evenly divided on the question of whether homosexual relations between consenting adults should be legal; among the general public, this position is supported by 54 percent to 39 percent.

How the Poll Was Conducted

his New York Times/CBS News Poll is based on telephone interviews conducted from July 13 to July 27 with 3,092 adults throughout the United States. Of those, 1,074 identified themselves as of Hispanic origin or descent. Interviews were conducted in English or Spanish.

The national Hispanic sample was drawn in three ways. First, based on all Times/CBS News polls since January 2001, every phone number that resulted in a self-identified Hispanic interview was called back for the new study. Second, every phone number that yielded a Spanish-speaking person from those same polls was also called back, even though in the original polls only English speakers were interviewed, as is standard practice among pollsters. Third, to supplement the sample, new phone numbers composed of random digits were called in exchanges around the country that contain 35 percent or more Hispanic residents, based on census data.

Nationally, the non-Hispanic portion of the sample was composed of callbacks to phone numbers in all Times/CBS News polls since January 2001 where respondents had originally identified themselves as non-Hispanic.

The New York City sample was constructed following comparable steps, based on local polls by The Times and CBS News in 2002 and 2003. An exception was that in the city non-Hispanic respondents resulted from random digit dialing rather than from callbacks.

The disproportionately large samples of Hispanic respondents were weighted down to their proper proportion of the population in the United States and New York City, respectively.

The results have been weighted to take account of household size and number of telephone lines into the residence and to adjust for variation in the sample relating to geographic region, sex, race, age, education and native versus foreign born.

In theory, in 19 cases out of 20, the results based on such samples will differ by no more than two or three percentage points in either direction from what would have been obtained by seeking out all American adults.

For smaller subgroups the margin of sampling error is larger: three points for non-Hispanic respondents nationally, four points for Hispanic respondents nationally, and five points for either non-Hispanic or Hispanic respondents in New York City.

In addition to sampling error, the practical difficulties of conducting any survey of public opinion may introduce other sources of error into the poll. Variation in English versus Spanish wording of questions, for example, may lead to somewhat different results.

Complete results are online at

Hispanics Are No Voting Bloc

June 24, 2003
Copyright © 2003
United Press International. All rights reserved. 

Jun 24, 2003 (United Press International via COMTEX) -- Political polls don't lie. It's just that some people who analyze their figures misspeak.

Take a recent telephone survey commissioned by the New Democrat Network that tries to determine how strong Democrat support is among Hispanic people, who account for 13 percent of the U.S. population and 8 percent of registered voters.

Conducted in late May and early June and released last week, the NDN claims the poll shows Hispanic support for President Bush declining. But Republican National Committee officials read the same figures and find a trend of declining support for whichever Democrat winds up challenging Bush in the 2004 general election.

The poll of 800 Hispanic people (49 percent of whom were born in the United States) showed 48 percent of respondents supporting the Democratic Party candidate for president, while 34 percent said they were committed to supporting Bush's desires for re-election.

The remaining 18 percent were undecided how they would vote in an election that is still 17 months in the future. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percent.

A summary of the Bendixen and Associates poll said this is a sign Bush has lost 10 percent of his Hispanic support. It cites a poll conducted last year that found 44 percent of Hispanic voters were pleased that Bush won the 2000 presidential election, while 46 percent wished former Vice President Al Gore had been victorious.

The problem with the Democratic reasoning is that the two questions are too different. It is too much of a stretch of credibility to compare the results of who Hispanics wished had won a controversial election with who they will vote for next year.

But Republicans are just as capable of manipulating figures to make a point. The GOP views the poll as proof that Democrats are losing support among Hispanics.

They cite the fact that Gore took 65 percent of the Hispanic vote in the 2000 election, which they say means the latest poll shows the yet-to-be-determined Democratic nominee suffering a 17-point drop in support.

"We are thrilled that a Democrat pollster has confirmed what we know to be true," GOP grassroots development Director Rudy Fernandez said. "Hispanics increasingly understand they have a better choice than the tired, old rhetoric of the Democrat Party."

Such talk would be true if it were safe to assume that all 18 percent of undecided Hispanic voters would cast ballots for Bush. But common sense indicates many of them want to see who the Democrat nominee will be before committing themselves, and the majority of those who will support Bush over a Democrat already are willing to say so.

Admittedly, everyone's view of truth is affected by political perspective. So in the interest of disclosure, I voted for Gore in 2000 but would have supported Bill Bradley had his campaign not flopped so quickly. Insofar as 2004 is concerned, I believe the nine Democrats currently running for president present a lineup even more nondescript than the 1997 Chicago Cubs, who began that season with a 14-game losing streak and went downhill from there.

What caught my attention about the latest poll was that Bush, who managed to take 34 percent of the Hispanic vote in the 2000 general election, still gets 34 percent. No change whatsoever!

Bush has his Hispanic supporters among the die-hards of the Cuban community who bear a four-decade grudge against the Democratic Party and the more hard-core Catholics who are convinced the Democratic platform (which includes support for abortion and gay rights) will condemn them to eternal damnation.

But the poll found a majority reject the claims of the GOP that Democrats are interfering with the ability of Hispanics to rise to positions of power in the federal government (21 percent of respondents blame Democrats), and most Hispanics think their growth in U.S. population is not translating into action by Bush on issues of special concern (13 percent of respondents were satisfied).

The Bendixen poll found "jobs and the economy" to be the most important issue for 51 percent of those surveyed. It was particularly significant to Hispanics born in the United States, while it fell to No. 2 (behind "education") among Hispanics born in other countries.

Also, 68 percent of those surveyed said they believe the increase in the federal budget deficit under Bush will make it more difficult for the U.S. economy to improve.

Many Bush partisans argue the current economic condition was caused by neglect toward the end of Bill Clinton's years as president, and there's some truth to their claim.

But Hispanics appear to be like many other people in the United States; they're only interested in seeing how Bush resolves the problem and will reward him with their votes if he is successful.

So while Bush likes to tout his "Texas-style" Spanish and many Republican officials are giving themselves crash courses in the language in hopes of developing a bond with the growing Hispanic population, the key to gaining Hispanic support could be to treat them like everybody else and focus on the economy.

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