Boston, MA, April 21 -- Today, Emerson College Polling releases the first installment of its nationwide Hispanic voter and non-registered citizen research project, Unlocking the Hispanic Vote. The project, which consists of a combination of focus groups and surveys, seeks to better understand Hispanic attitudes and beliefs towards voting, policy issues, politics, and media. Leer en español / Read in Spanish
The focus groups are a new venture for Emerson College Polling. By using focus groups after each state survey, Emerson dives deeper into this ideologically and demographically diverse group to gain insight into their attitudes and beliefs. This allows for an unfiltered conversation with Hispanic voters and non-registered citizens state by state, and also gives a voice to a group that is often underrepresented in public opinion research.
The focus for the first installment of this study is the state of Texas, followed by, but not limited to, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Arizona, and Nevada. In each state, one survey that includes both registered voters and non-registered citizens is conducted, and is followed by three focus groups: Hispanic voters in English, Hispanic voters in Spanish, and Hispanic non-registered citizens in English.
Texas Survey Findings and Focus Group Observations
Voting: Increasing Political Engagement
The survey of Texas Hispanic non-registered citizens found just over half (51%) said nothing could get them to register to vote. However, the other 49% said there were several factors that could motivate them to register to vote including: different or better candidates (17%), more information (17%), and if they had time (11%). In the focus group of non-registered citizens, a 33-year-old woman noted in the last election, “the lines were super long…I didn’t have time to be sitting there two hours waiting and, I got things to do, you know? I have work, I have dogs, I have kids.” Others in the non-registered group expressed misinformation surrounding voting: one individual thought you must re-register each cycle, others cited ID issues associated with voting.
In the survey, 36% of non-registered citizens agreed with the statement that their “vote won’t change anything” while a quarter (25%) agreed that “there’s no difference between Democrats and Republicans.” The sentiments behind these two statements were expressed by nonvoters in the focus groups. “Every presidential election, or every president that’s been elected, they’re all really the same. They’ll all say something and then when they get into office it’s completely different,” a 25-year-old man said. A 38-year-old project manager said “I don’t think that your vote matters, to be honest—when [politicians] are up there, they’re gonna do what they wanna do.”
The Texas Hispanic survey found a plurality (33%) of registered voters cited they participate in elections because they have a duty as a citizen to vote. Following the survey, Texas voters in the focus group were asked their registration experiences and why participants chose to vote. One Independent mother of six in the English group said her 20-year-old daughter persuaded her to register, whereas a Democratic healthcare attendant said her mother instilled in her voting as a practice.
Voters also expressed that not being informed on voting leads to disengagement: “my family was never big voters, so even now I feel like I lack the education. I didn't know there were even different types of elections…it was a lack of knowing,” a 26-year-old patient care technician said.
Policy Issues: Financial Hardship and Concern on Economy Dominates
Forty-one percent (41%) of those surveyed responded that the economy, including inflation, taxes, and jobs, is the most pressing problem facing their community, followed by Covid-19 (10%) and crime (10%). Non-registered citizens more strongly identified the economy as the most pressing problem with 47%, compared to 37% of voters.
In the non-registered citizens focus group, participants described the toll inflation has on their livelihood. Multiple group members noted they have to have second jobs to bring in more income to get by. A 31-year-old woman who works in a tile warehouse said she recently had to start a second job “just to make ends meet.”
In the voter focus groups, a majority of participants expressed concerns over rising costs and how this leads to lack of stability. In the English-speaking voter group, the healthcare attendant said, “it seems like everything has skyrocketed, and our salaries are the same. Everywhere you look you have to pay more of what you’re paying, insurance, health care, everything.” In the Spanish-speaking group of voters, a 47-year-old woman said “every week you go to the store and there's a different price on everything, everything that we consume.”
When asked who they blame for inflation, a 28-year-old licensing coordinator for a life insurance agency in the English-speaking voter focus group said, “I blame the free money that we received. Even if we didn’t receive the free money, I think that inflation has been going up…I blame the government.”
Politics: Perception of Democratic and Republican Parties
In the Texas poll, nearly half (49%) of Hispanic voters said they have a very or somewhat positive view of the Democratic party, compared to 25% who said they had a very or somewhat positive view of the Republican party. A majority of non-registered citizens were neutral on the Democratic party (73%) and Republican party (75%).
When asked to describe the political parties, several voters in the English and Spanish speaking voter focus groups said they view the Democratic party as representing the people and the middle and lower classes; however, several of the same individuals expressed they were better off financially under Republican leadership. As a whole, voters and nonvoters in focus groups associated the Republican party with lower taxes.
In the Spanish-speaking voter group, a 33-year-old warehouse employee said, “with Trump, the bad is that he is racist, but at the end of the day, the country was better off on the economic side.” Several individuals in the voter and non-registered focus groups also expressed distaste for former President Trump’s divisive nature and rhetoric. However, many shared the sentiment that since prices were lower during the Trump administration, he was better for the economy.
Regarding immigration, the Spanish and English-speaking voter focus groups viewed the Democratic party as closer to their own beliefs on immigration, citing support for more pathways to citizenship. Among non-registered participants, several individuals noted a lack of real immigration change under Democratic leadership.
Media Consumption: Individuals Look to Verify the News
Cable news (both English and Spanish) is the main source of political information for 34% of survey respondents, followed by social media (30%) and local news (26%).
Among voters, 42% report relying on cable news, 24% local news, and 22% social media. In the voter English-speaking focus group, multiple members relied upon their local news station for news, or the app provided by that station. In the English and Spanish speaking registered voter focus groups, several individuals noted that paywalls behind online newspapers stop them from reading articles. A 33-year-old software engineer said “most of them [newspapers] are behind a paywall. So that brings [me] back to other news outlets, like Yahoo or CNN, that are usually more free to have.”
Conversely, among non-registered citizens, 44% report relying on social media for political news while 30% rely on local news; just 21% rely on cable news. Yet, most of the participants in the non-registered citizen focus group expressed concern over misinformation in news, specifically on Facebook.
Across all focus groups, the need to verify information on social media and mainstream media was reported. “You kind of have to do your own work too. Like it’s cool that you saw it from this place and that place and everything, but do you trust that deep down, like what I just saw, do you really trust it?,” a 25-year-old non-registered citizen said regarding news on social media. A 22-year-old IT employee in the Spanish-speaking voter group said, “sometimes the media is misinforming. If you look at a headline, they tell you something, but if you read the article and see the facts of the article sometimes it is not what the media says. So I always do research.”
Neighborhood apps, like Nextdoor, were also a popular method for local and community news among both voters and nonvoters.
The next installment of this nation-wide research project is Colorado, where a survey of Hispanic nonvoters and voters along with three focus groups will be released in May 2022.
The survey of Texas Hispanic citizens was conducted March 21-28, 2022. The overall sample consisted of Hispanic citizens in Texas, n=781, with a Credibility Interval (CI), similar to a poll’s margin of error (MOE) of +/- 3.4 percentage points. The registered voter sample consisted of registered voters in Texas, n=494, with a Credibility Interval (CI) similar to a poll’s margin of error (MOE) of +/- 4.3 percentage points. The non-registered citizen sample consisted of non-registered citizens in Texas, n=287, +/- 5.7 percentage points. The data sets were weighted by gender, age, education, party registration, and region based on 2020 turnout modeling. It is important to remember that subsets based on gender, age, party breakdown, ethnicity, and region carry with them higher margins of error, as the sample size is reduced. Data was collected using a cellphone sample of SMS-to-web, online panels, and an Interactive Voice Response (IVR) system of landlines.
Focus Group Methodology
Three in-person focus groups were conducted of participants of Hispanic ethnicity in Dallas, Texas in April 2022: one of Hispanic registered voters who vote (conducted in English), a second of Hispanic non-registered citizens (conducted in English), and a third of Hispanic registered voters who vote (conducted in Spanish). Recruitment was done by the facility, Dallas by Definition, using a participant screener. Participants were given a $125 incentive to take part in the study. The study has been approved by the Institutional Review Board (IRB) at Emerson College.
Note: Quotes from focus groups have been edited for brevity and clarity.
Full Survey Results and Focus Group Report are available to download.