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May 18, 2000 Contact: Melissa Ring (617) 496-9761

Hispanic Americans Less Involved in Campaign, But Also Less Cynical

Voter Involvement Index Survey Methodology

Hispanics are enjoying more attention from presidential candidates and the press in 2000 than at any time in history. George W. Bush and Al Gore are both seeking to make inroads among Hispanics, who have traditionally participated at lower rates than other groups. The 2000 campaign is not likely to alter that pattern greatly.

Campaign invovlement by race

According to Shorenstein Center national polls conducted during the campaign, Hispanics have been less attentive to the presidential race than non-Hispanics. In the typical week, 63% of Hispanics said they were paying almost no attention to the campaign compared with 57% of other adults. Hispanics also responded less enthusiastically during the height of the primary season (from roughly mid-January to mid-March). Although the overall level of voter involvement more than doubled in this period, it jumped by only 18% among Hispanics. "The gap in the participation rates between Hispanic and other Americans has been declining slowly over the years, but it still exists," says Thomas Patterson, Bradlee Professor at Harvard's Kennedy School and co-director of the Vanishing Voter Project, of which the Shorenstein Center polls are a component. "Hispanics fit a pattern that has characterized other immigrant groups. It always takes a while for newer arrivals to reach the participation levels of earlier ones."

Hispanics are less likely to believe they have a stake in the outcome of the presidential race. Nearly half of the Hispanic respondents said that the outcome would make little or no difference in the lives of people like themselves compared with 41% of non-Hispanics. The gap between Hispanic and other Americans was less pronounced when the issue was whether the election's outcome would have a measurable effect on the country as a whole.

  Voter Involvement Index
May 10-14 20%
May 3-7 18%
Apr. 26-30 18%
Apr. 18-22 20%
Apr. 12-16 19%
Apr. 5-9 22%
Source: Shorenstein Center Poll
Sampling error: ±6%

Despite their lower involvement level, Hispanics are less cynical about the political process than other Americans. In a Shorenstein Center poll conducted in March, for example, 60% of Hispanics compared with 74% of non-Hispanics agreed with the statement that "politics in America is pretty disgusting." Furthermore, only 39% of Hispanics in that poll felt that most politicians were "not worthy of respect." Fifty-seven percent of non-Hispanics felt this way. "More than other voting groups, Hispanics still feel detached from the political process," says Marvin Kalb, co-director of the Vanishing Voter Project and the Executive Director of the Shorenstein Center's Washington Office. "A good sign, though, is that they are less cynical about the process than others."

The results reported here are from nationwide telephone surveys of approximately 1,000 adults conducted November 14, 1999 May 14, 2000. The surveys have a sampling error of ±3%. The Vanishing Voter Project is a study by the Joan Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy at Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government. Funding for the project is provided by The Pew Charitable Trusts. The project is co-directed by Thomas E. Patterson, Bradlee Professor of Government & the Press at the Shorenstein Center at Harvard, and by Marvin Kalb, Executive Director of the Shorenstein Center's office in Washington.

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