I just attended a session at the Inter-American Dialogue in which The Chicago Council on Global Affairs presented the results of a survey of Latinos in the U.S. and their preferences for U.S. foreign policy. The results are somewhat surprising, as several of its main findings seem to be strongly counter intuitive, see: http://www.thechicagocouncil.org/blog-entry/latinos-and-future-us-foreign-policy
The survey was made to a group that reflects the composition of the Latino population in the U.S.: 62% Mexican, 4% Cuban, 6% South American. 35% of the respondents only have primary school education, 29% of the respondents have a high school diploma while 30% have some college education or a college Bachelor’s degree.
The main conclusion of the survey is that Latinos think about U.S. foreign policy issues in very similar terms to those of the overall U.S. public. They:
· Favor U.S. strong leadership in the world and think of the U.S. as the most influential country, now and within the next 10 years
· Consider terrorism, Iran’s nuclear program and cyber-attacks as the main threats to U.S. national security
· Support the use of military force to prevent a government from committing genocide, to deal with a humanitarian crises, to ensure oil supply, to combat terrorism and to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons
· Favor the dialogue with Cuba, Iran and North Korea
Some differences exist with respect to the larger population.
· They seem less threatened by large immigration numbers coming into the country
· They consider climate change a bigger threat than the larger population does
· They think positively of the U.N.
In their feelings towards other nations they seem to show preference for countries such as Canada, Mexico (of course), England and France. Brazil is the Latin American country they like the most, after Mexico. Only 50% like Venezuela, although this is more than the larger U.S. population; less than 50% like Cuba, while only 40% of the larger population like this country.
Some of the strongest counter intuitive results of the survey include the issues of climate change (89% consider important or very important that it should be limited), the use of force to insure oil supplies (55%) and placing sanctions on countries that violate international law (72%). In the case of climate change this seems odd, as Latinos are generally quite indifferent towards the environment in their own countries. In Venezuela, for example, the neglect of the environment is significant and so is the case in Mexico. It was suggested during the meeting that what Latinos in the U.S. worry about is the weather, rather than the concept of climate change as a whole, since many of the respondents might be engaged in the agricultural sector. Their approval of military force to insure oil supplies is also surprising as most of the sample is of Mexican origin and they surely would not like the possibility of the U.S. taking over the oilfields of Mexico. Their large preference for the placing of sanctions on countries that violate international law is also surprising since Latin Americans have traditionally been adverse to the idea of U.S. intervention in the region, almost to the point of fetishism. There is a suggestion of a double standard in this issue, as the respondents probably favor intervention in other areas of the world, not in Latin America.
In general, the survey is useful but seems to generate more questions than answers. For example, what do more educated Latinos think? What do non-Mexican Latinos think? Although the sample surveyed reflects the correct proportions existing in the U.S. population, it would be important to know what Latino minorities think: Cuban, South American and so on.
According to the panelists the Latino group in the U.S. with more clout, after the Cuban, is the Colombian.
What do these influential minorities think? What do Latinos think about the Venezuelan crisis? Do they approve U.S. sanctions against Venezuelan corrupt members of government? Their posture in such an issue could differ dramatically from the lax attitude of Latin American governments, as shown in the OAS and UNASUR. The survey did not include questions specifically related to Latin America, for whatever reason. I also wonder if the U.S. presidential candidates should base their campaign among Latinos in this or other similar survey, without taking into account the possibility that the results might reflect what the interviewer wants to hear.
It would be worth investigating how the Latino feel about the U.S. This must be, I agree, difficult to measure. Some of the answers obtained in the Chicago Council survey did not seem to corroborate my own, purely impressionistic, beliefs. As a 12 year- immigrant to this country I have been surprised, even shocked, by the large amount of Latinos I have met who speak about the U.S. in pejorative terms, even those who have been here for many more years than I have. I know my experience is not statistically significant but it would be interesting to know if it can be tested. I have seen this largely among low education immigrants who do blue collar work, but I have also seen it among many of the better educated Latino. Many sound resentful, although the reasons are almost never given. The message seems to be that “they cannot get used to this culture” and feel nostalgic about their countries of origin, although they don’t show any intentions to return. This has always been a mystery to me, as I am fully enjoying my stay in this country and have no problems with saying so openly. I sense that many Latinos are reluctant to look or sound not “patriotic” enough. Mrs. Adina Bastidas, a former Director at the Inter - American Development Bank for Venezuela, used to say that she had been living in Washington DC for several years and was proud of not speaking English and of never going to a Museum, probably for fear of “contamination” with the gringo culture. Portuguese writer Eca de Queiroz used to say that he spoke English “patriotically” bad.
I would love to see an expanded investigation of the Latino attitudes and feelings in the U.S. as I sense that, as compared to other ethnic groups in the U.S., Latinos show a lower degree of integration.