Poll Finds Differences Among Latino Attitudes on Immigration Reform
Groups disagree on reform support but agree on importance
As a proposal for comprehensive immigration reform moves to the full U.S. Senate for floor debate in early June, findings from a poll conducted by two University of Arkansas System entities indicate that different Latino groups agree immigration law is important to them, but disagree on what the law should do.
One finding from the Blair Center-Clinton School Poll, for instance, showed that three times the number of U.S.-born Latinos supported tougher immigration laws, in comparison to foreign-born Latinos. While the majority of both groups oppose tougher immigration reforms, nearly a third of U.S.-born Latinos want the tougher laws, compared to less than 10 percent of foreign-born Latinos.
Rafael Jimeno, the Diane D. Blair Professor of Latino Studies and assistant professor of political science at the University of Arkansas, addressed the attitudes toward immigration reform held by U.S.-born and foreign-born Latinos in the latest analysis of results from the Blair Center-Clinton School Poll. His report was released Thursday, May 23, and may be found at the poll’s website.
The Diane D. Blair Center of Southern Politics and Society in the J. William Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Arkansas and the University of Arkansas Clinton School of Public Service partnered to conduct a comprehensive online national poll of political attitudes and behaviors in late 2012.
Nationally across all ethnicities, 52.28 percent of the survey’s respondents would prefer “tougher” immigration laws and 56.04 percent say that the issue is either “important” or “very important.” Researchers are particularly interested in Latino opinions on the issue because immigration reform is widely considered a means through which lawmakers might make political inroads with the Latino community.
“No community is monolithic — and the Latino community is certainly no exception,” said Jimeno. “Thanks to an over-sampling of Latino respondents, our data allows us to explore attitudes by separating Latinos born in the U.S. and foreign-born Latinos.”
The groups’ responses to questions about their support or opposition to tougher immigration laws was in line with previous studies, but the differences in the legislation’s importance to the two groups was unexpected.
In assessing the support or opposition for such laws, 32.28 percent of U.S.-born Latinos responded that they “favor” or “strongly favor” tougher immigration laws, compared to 9.54 percent of foreign-born Latinos. By comparison, 41.72 percent of U.S.-born Latinos “oppose” or “strongly oppose” such laws, while 71.61 percent of foreign-born Latinos shared the attitude.
When considering the importance of tougher immigration laws 49.11 percent of U.S.-born Latinos said such laws were either “important” or “very important” to them, and 42.5 percent of the foreign-born concurred. In contrast, the response of foreign-born Latinos who said that such laws were either “unimportant” or “very unimportant,” was more than 10 points above the response of U.S.-born Latinos:, 36.72 percent to 24.23 percent, respectively.
“One possible explanation considered for this counterintuitive result was citizenship status,” said Jimeno. “However, there were no remarkable differences between foreign-born citizens and foreign-born noncitizens and what differences did exist were not systematic. For example, among the foreign-born, 40 percent of noncitizens and 47 percent of citizens said such laws were important or very important to them. Equally, 39 percent of noncitizens and 33 percent of citizens said such laws were either unimportant or very unimportant to them.”
The full report contains comparisons among nationwide attitudes and Latino attitudes toward the importance of immigration reform and the amount of support for tougher immigration laws. It also addresses what these attitudes may mean for future elections.
“The finer points may remain unclear, but what is very clear from the data is that while native-born and foreign-born Latinos differ on how punitive they expect immigration reforms to be, the issue is no less important to either group,” said Jimeno. “This likely sends a murky signal to lawmakers hoping to court the Latino vote in upcoming elections.”
Additional reports from the Blair Center-Clinton School Poll will be released throughout the year. Future topics include immigration and opinions of African American voters and South vs. non-South attitudes. For more information about the Blair Center-Clinton School partnership, please visit poll website.
About the Partners:
The Diane D. Blair Center of Southern Politics and Society was established in 2001 by an act of U.S. Congress. This research center was named in honor of Diane Divers Blair who taught in the political science department of the University of Arkansas for 30 years. The Blair Center reflects her academic model and strives to approach the study of the American South from a variety of angles, attempting to reveal the undercurrents of politics, history and culture that have shaped the region.
The nation’s seventh presidential school, the University of Arkansas Clinton School of Public Service is the first school in the nation to offer a Master of Public Service (M.P.S.) degree, giving students the knowledge and experience to further their careers in the areas of nonprofit, governmental, volunteer or private sector service. Additionally, the mission of the Clinton School’s Center on Community Philanthropy, directed by Charlotte Williams, is to promote issues and research into community-based philanthropy and its role in generating social, economic and political change.
Darinda Sharp, director of communications
J. William Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences
Ben Beaumont, director of communications
University of Arkansas Clinton School of Public Service