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Almost half of Latinos say their situation in the U.S. has worsened over the past year, the highest level since the Great Recession a decade ago and a substantial increase since Donald Trump won the 2016 presidential election, according to a new study by the Pew Research Center.
In early 2017 only 32% of Latinos said their condition had worsened, but that level of discontent has risen to 47% today, the poll found. About 36% said their conditions was about the same and 15% said it has improved over the last year.
In addition, more say they have serious concerns about their place in American society now (49%) than in 2017 (41%). And a majority (55%) say they are worried that they, a family member or close friend could be deported.
However, Hispanics also continue to see the U.S. as a better place to get ahead (85%) and a better place to raise children (73%) than their countries of origin or Puerto Rico, the poll found.
Many blame the Trump administration for what they see as the worsening situation of Hispanics, the nation’s largest minority group. Two-thirds (67%) say the administration’s policies have been harmful to Hispanics – a much higher share than during the administration of either Democrat Barack Obama (15% in 2010) or Republican George W. Bush (41% in 2007).
Overall, six-in-ten (62%) Hispanics say they are dissatisfied with the way things are going in the country today, up since 2017 when 50% of Hispanics said they were dissatisfied with the nation’s direction.
Political party preference
The survey found that less than a quarter of Latinos (23%) identify as Republican or describe themselves as leaning Republican. The survey did find some good news for the Republican Party though, as the Democratic Party has lost favor with Latinos over the last two years.
In 2018, about half (48%) of Latino registered voters say the Democratic Party has more concern for Latinos than the Republican Party, down from 61% in 2012. Just 14% say the Republican Party has more concern, slightly up from 10% in 2012. About a third (32%) say there is no difference between the parties, up from 23% in 2012.
The survey did not ask why the image of the Democratic Party had fallen. One of the authors, Mark Hugo Lopez, speculated that politicial perception had gone up and down in the past depending on political debate over high profile policies that directly affected Latinos, such as President Barack Obama's executive orders to protect the children of undocumented immigrants (DACA) and their parents (DAPA).
In more favorable image of Democrats in 2012 was likely due to Obama's announcement of DACA, but fell in 2014 as Obama increased deportations.
Democrats still hold a two-to-one advantage over Republicans among registered voters. “If the election for Congress were held today, 63% of Latino registered voters say they would support the Democratic congressional candidate in their district, while 29% say they would support the Republican candidate,” the Pew Center said. That wasn't altogether bad news for Republicans as it almost matched an exit poll after the 2016 election which found 29% of Hispanics had voted for Trump and 65% of Hillary Clinton.
More than 29 million Latinos are eligible to vote nationwide in 2018, making up 12.8% of all eligible voters – both new highs, according to a new Pew Research Center analysis of Census Bureau data published this month. However, the Latino voter turnout rate in midterm elections has declined since 2006. In 2014, the turnout rate among Latino eligible voters dropped to a record low of 27.0%, though White and Asian eligible voters also had record-low turnout rates. Despite this, a record 6.8 million Latinos voted.
Lopez said the survey confirmed that it was getting harder to generalize about Latinos who represent an increasingly diverse set of views in different parts of the country. "It speaks to how the population is changing," Lopez told Univision. "This is a population that is growing more distant from its immigrant roots. The people who are coming of age are the children of immigrants," he explained. "There's a lot of diversity depending on where you are. Some are U.S.-born, some are foreign-born, some come from Cuba and others from Mexico."
Being Hispanic in the U.S.
The survey also found that a majority (54%) of Hispanics say it has become more difficult in recent years to be Hispanic in the United States. This feeling is even more pervasive among foreign-born Hispanics (64%) than among the U.S. born (44%). And nearly four-in-ten Hispanics say they have experienced at least one of four offensive incidents in the past year because of their Hispanic background.
Immigrants are more likely than U.S.-born Hispanics to say they have serious concerns about their place in U.S. society - 57% vs. 42% - and they worry a lot or some about deportation - 66% vs. 43%.
Despite a strong U.S. economy, record high Latino household income and record low unemployment among U.S. Latinos, “Latino adults are more downbeat about their current financial situation today than they were three years ago,” according to the survey.
Optimism about their personal finances had also fallen among U.S. Latinos, no matter their political persuasion. “Today, about six-in-ten (62%) say they expect their personal financial situation to improve in the coming year, down 19 percentage points from three years ago (81%) and at the lowest level recorded since the Center first asked this question in 2004,” Pew said. “Even during the Great Recession, when finances of Latinos were doing poorly, about two-thirds of Latinos expected their personal finances would improve the following year,” it noted.
Two-thirds said the Trump administration's policies had been harmful, though the survey did not ask which poli00cies were to blame in particular. "This is the highest we have ever measured going back to 2007," said Lopez.
The nation’s Latino population now stands at nearly 59 million and is one of the youngest and fastest-growing groups in the United States. Its composition is also changing as the foreign-born share has fallen and U.S. births now drive growth. Overall about one-third of all Latinos are foreign born. Among the about 19 million Latino immigrants, some 8 million are unauthorized immigrants.
The poll was conducted between late July and early September using a bilingual telephone survey of 1,501 Hispanic adults, conducted by cellular and landline telephone. The survey’s margin of error is plus or minus 3.1 percentage points.