June 2, 2014

Top issue for Hispanics? Hint: It’s not immigration

A broad overhaul of the nation’s immigration laws has been debated and discussed among policy makers for a dozen years, but Congress has yet to pass a bill. Last month, several Hispanic advocacy leaders criticized the president for policies that have contributed to the more than three million immigrants deported since 2004. Yet now, some Latino leaders are wondering if immigration reform is perhaps “crowding out other issues facing the Latino community.”Immigration is not top priority for Hispanics

Immigration reform “now occupies almost all the Latino policy agenda, sucking up, as one colleague recently put it, all the oxygen on Latino issues,” according to a recent commentary from Angelo Falcón, National Institute for Latino Policy president.

Indeed, when Pew Research Center has surveyed the Hispanic community, there are several issues that consistently rank higher on the list than immigration. In 2013, some 57% of Hispanic registered voters called education an “extremely important” issue facing the nation today. That’s compared with jobs and the economy (52%) and health care (43%). Just 32% said immigration.

Since 2007, about one-third of Hispanic registered voters have called immigration an “extremely important” issue to them personally. Even among Hispanic immigrants, the share was 35% in 2012.

While about seven-in-ten of all Latinos in 2013 said it was important for Congress to pass significant new immigration legislation that year, the share who said so was higher among immigrants (80%) than among the U.S. born (57%). Among the general public, 49% of U.S. adults said so when asked the same question in February.

In some respects, Hispanics’ focus on education as a top issue makes sense. In 2010, Hispanics had the highest birth rates—80 births per 1,000 women of childbearing age, compared with 64 for blacks, 59 for whites and 56 for Asians. Fully one-in-three (33%) Hispanics are school age (under 18), compared with one-in-five (20%) whites.

The economy has been another top issue among Hispanics, who said the recession hit them harder than other groups. Among Hispanics in 2012, the economy and jobs (54%) ranked about as high as education (55%) as an issue “extremely important” to them personally. The unemployment rate among Hispanics peaked at 12.3% in 2010, compared with 8.9% among non-Hispanics. The unemployment rate for Hispanics has steadily fallen since then (8.9% in 2013), but remains above pre-recession levels (4.9% in 2006).

Topics: Immigration, Political Issue Priorities, Hispanic/Latino Vote

  1. Photo of Jens Manuel Krogstad

    is a writer/editor focusing on Hispanics, immigration and demographics at Pew Research Center.


  1. Papayitasf3 years ago

    Here’s yet another Hispanic survey published this month reinforcing the importance of immigration among Latinos….

    Center for American Progress Action Fund / Latino Decisions Immigration Poll / June 2014

    Q3. With all the different issues the new Congress and President must address, how important do you think it is for them to address immigration reform this year before the next election? Do you think it is [rotate F/B: extremely important, very important, somewhat important, not too important, or not at all important]?

    Extremely important…31
    Very important………40
    Somewhat important……….18
    Not too important………7
    Not at all important……….2
    Don’t know……..1

    Source: latinodecisions.com/files/2814/0…

    Latino Decisions Field dates May 9-16, 2014 N=800; MOE =+/- 3.4%

  2. Papayitasf3 years ago

    Both the title and the article are misleading. The lead-in title should not be “Top Issue for Hispanics? Hint: Not Immigration” because the sample sourced for this study are Hispanic registered voters. Note that in PEW Hispanic’s own studies on Hispanic groups they rely on Census estimates to gauge the total Hispanic population: in 2012, it is 50.7 million; the Hispanic voting age population is 35.2 million; and, the number of Hispanic registered voters is merely 13.7 million. Thus, that sample is just a subset of the total population, and one that would understandably skew away from viewing immigration as a priority. A more representative sample would include Hispanic non-voters, Hispanic foreign-born, and Hispanic undocumented. It is unusual why an Hispanic advocacy organization would try and frame the issue in this manner.

    1. Jens Manuel Krogstad3 years ago

      Interestingly, we’ve gotten similar results on top issues when we’ve polled all Latino adults.

      Here’s one example (see figures 1 and 2, with the caveat that the question wording is not always identical across years).


      1. papayitasf3 years ago

        As a social scientist you can manipulate design, sample universe and questionnaire wording and story narrative to reach given conclusions. I am criticizing you and PEW Hispanic for framing the issue in the way that you are. By narrowing your analytic outlook in the article to merely Latino voters you misrepresented this as a national projectable Latino trend in the title, when your survey universe was merely Latino voters.
        Other Latino researchers have surveyed other important segments of the Latino population and come to different conclusions and outcomes. For example, Latino Decisions conducted a July 18, 2013 national survey of Latino voters and found that 69% of Latinos surveyed stated that immigration reform should be a high priority for Congress. And, in the aftermath of the 2008 U.S. Presidential elections, Bendixen & Associates conducted a survey of Latino immigrant voters and found that 63% of those polled found the issue of immigration important to them and their families.
        It is both discouraging and disheartening that at a moment when many press accounts underscore the mass deportations of Latinos by the Obama administration – which clearly is tragic and of the utmost importance to many aggrieved families – you take the tack that you did in this article.

  3. Tom Kariotis3 years ago

    Why doesn’t the Mexican government want them back? Shouldn’t Mexico pay us for taking them off their hands? Why can’t I purchase any land and a home in Mexico? Shouldn’t I have to learn Spanish as a requirement? Why?

  4. Tom Kariotis3 years ago

    Maybe we need another ” Ellis ” island of sort, with a huge capacity, Located in the Gulf of Mexico but on the other side of the U.S. border.

  5. Tom Kariotis3 years ago

    What are Hispanic and is there a definition for it? Are the same individuals bused in from anywhere? Does any of them live next to politicians? Why aren’t they capable of high-skilled jobs that require English also? When they have to interact with people isn’t English required?
    Were legal and illegal people interviewed?
    Look at the price of colleges. Are they affordable to all kids? Just like car insurance, isn’t it required by all? The insurance rates might go down for all, but I doubt it. Greed takes over and the insurance companies and every related business must keep their shareholders happy just like the oil industry.
    Aren’t there enough scholarships already? Why have free education if you can’t afford it? Why have many Children if you can’t afford to feed and house them?
    Just my opinion.

  6. Tom Kariotis3 years ago

    Phone interviews? What about interviews in communities or at every home? Isn’t English the number 1 priority? Why aren’t there Spanish to English classes? Why does every one have to learn Spanish when there are dozens of other immigrant languages? Does an American have to learn all other languages when other immigrants had to learn English in order to fit into society?
    Doesn’t Bi-lingual work both ways?

  7. Michael3 years ago

    Just curious if you are polling people in the Rio Grande Valley…

    1. Mark Hugo Lopez3 years ago

      Yes, Pew Research Center surveys of Hispanics include Hispanics from all states. For more detail on the methodology of our reports, see this description: pewhispanic.org/2012/10/11/appen…

  8. citizenofid3 years ago

    What is the definition of “Hispanic”? And were both legal and illegal Hispanics surveyed? I’d like to know if the answers to these questions might show how the results of the survey might be skewed.

    1. Mark Hugo Lopez3 years ago

      Anyone who self-identifies as Hispanic or Latino are included in our surveys. And our surveys do include U.S. born Hispanics as well as immigrant Hispanics, including some who may not be in the U.S. legally (though we do not ask respondents directly if they are in the U.S. legally or not). For more, see this methodology description: pewhispanic.org/2012/10/11/appen… .

  9. monica mumper3 years ago

    I am Hispanic and immigration is not an important issue for me or my family. The main issue for us is the decline in the quality of public education and the cost of university education. One of our grand children graduated from High School this year and we are shocked at the price of universities, even public universities are close to $10,000/yr for tuition only. In two years we will have two grandchildren attending university, it will be very tough to pay for all their university expenses, unless they receive scholarships based on their grades and extra curriculum activities. We would hate to see them start life with loan payments but they will probably have to.

    Thirty years ago, when their parents attended university,we were able to finance their education out-of-pocket, with the kids working summers, I doubt that university education is that much better now than it was then. It is irrational how university tuition has increased, as our salaries have increased very little or remained stagnant.

    1. citizenofid3 years ago

      I agree with Monica Mumper; the cost of university tuition has skyrocketed compared to the rate of inflation and I suspect that one of the primary reasons is the same now as it was in the ’70’s: federal loan programs. When federally-backed, low interest loans became available, the universities could then raise tuition because now the cost had become more “affordable”. I did not need student loans; I was able to pretty much finance 80% of my college tuition through a good summer job and the rest through part-time work during school and very modest support from my parents (during the late ’60’s).
      It is insane how expensive it is now. I agree with Monica, too, that the quality of the professors is not noticeably better now than then.

    2. slk3 years ago

      there are tech schools that are a lot cheaper, with jobs waiting for them (unfortunately, it involves work, which many don’t want)!!! college isn’t for everyone, and those going to college aren’t making the right choices!!! unless your at the upper third of your class, stay away from law!!! sandra fluck will get by on exposure, but all the rest will not achieve their dreams!!! and please don’t saddle yourself, with a huge loan!!! the government “will not” rescue all those debted students!!!

  10. Rev Felten3 years ago

    Immigration Reform is a “red herring.” The problem, which was intended to be addressed by Pres Reagan, is “managing” the process of immigration. Citizenship and all of the privileges that come with it cannot be a “freebie” in a Nation hand cuffed by political correctness, and motivated by special interest groups.
    The deficiencies of a grossly mismanaged bureauocratic government, must be identified and corrected for any social policy to work effectively and efficiently.
    Until this occurs, through the appropriate transition and evolution of our government, controls necessary to mitigate risks to the sovereignty of our republic and safety, security, and welfare of our citizens must be effectively implemented and regulated.
    This will cause many to cry out “police state.” Many of these individuals live off of government handouts and subsidies. There must be a radical change of thinking and expectations. Our citizens must literally recognize the meanings of the phrases; “there is no such thing as a free lunch,” and “freedom is never totally free.” There are actually only a few steps from our form of government to the Chinese or Russian forms.
    Every debated issue CANNOT be resolved with a “bipartsan decision.” We are not a society where we barter or negotiate for everything we want. Our form of Democracy is expected to produce “partisan” solutions to issues when necessary. Significant legislation cannot be expected to be overwhelmingly accepted if its genesis occurred in seclusion among a few individuals.

  11. guest3 years ago

    Get rid of illegal immigration, lower low-skilled immigration and you help all of their issues above.

    1. slk3 years ago

      you wouldn’t be talking about all those burger flippers, who want a lot??? unfortunately the ones doing the low wage jobs, think no skill deserves more, and the others say it’s beneath them!!!

      1. Alex3 years ago

        Illegal immigration has kept labor prices down. Compare to other OECD nations and see the correlation. On the other hand other government costs go up so the only winners are their employers because consumers end up paying for cheap labor some other way.