The Contraception Debate and Latino Voter Opinion

Conventional wisdom suggests Latinos, and men in particular, have strong preferences for traditional gender roles. Similarly, one might expect recent immigrants to hold significantly more conservative views about women’s social roles relative to their American-born counterparts. In a recent Politics and Gender article, Celeste Montoya, Christina Bejarano and I examine these suppositions. We find neither to be true; Latinos and Latinas overwhelmingly share egalitarian attitudes about gender equality. Opinion differences occur, but they are quite small. Perhaps most importantly, we find no instance where men and women are on opposite sides of the issues we studied.

Attitudes about gender roles were measured using four items from the 2006 Latino National Survey (LNS), which is the most comprehensive study of Latino political attitudes to date: 1) Men and women should get equal pay when they are in the same job; 2) Women should have easy access to birth control/contraception; 3) Mothers should be more responsible for caring for their children than fathers; and 4) Men are better qualified to be political leaders than women . The article has far more analysis and empirical testing (controlling for different in-group differences) than a blog post allows, but the general patterns are illustrated below. All data are reported in percentages and the sample size is 8,634. Opinions between men and women who are US and foreign born are clearly quite similar on all four issues tested.

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Regardless of nativity, the vast majority of Latinos and and Latinas strongly agree women should earn equal pay and have easy access to contraception.

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Latinas and Latinos who are U.S. born and foreign born disagree at similar rates, again over 50%, with the idea that mothers should bear more responsibility for child care relative to fathers.

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The majority of Latinos and Latinas also disagree with the sentiment that men are more qualified for political leadership.  It is noticeable that immigrant men register less progressive attitudes on these last two questions. Still, over 50% disagree with the statements and the majority view should not be discounted either.

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Access to Contraception – No Controversy Here

The current national debate about women’s access to contraception warrants a more nuanced consideration of Latina and Latino voter opinions on the issue. Using the LNS, which includes 8,600 respondents representative of the national Latino population (margin of error+1.05%), it is possible to parse out sub-groups in the Latino electorate to further gauge opinion. Asked whether women should have easy access to birth control and contraception, Latino voters in all demographic categories agree this should be the case. This is not a controversial issue for the Latino electorate; the illustration below includes only registered voters (N=3,927).

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Over 80% of Latinos in all cases agree or strongly agree on this point. Over 60% of Latino conservatives, men, U.S. born, Catholics, born again Christians, liberals, women, and immigrants strongly agree women should have easy access to birth control. Strategic political positioning against access to birth control will not yield Latino votes.

Other blog posts here have noted there can be sharp differences between different Latino groups, but sometimes, ethnic identity links group opinion. The evidence presented here shows there are other instances still, where Latino voters are surprisingly nothing like we’ve heard from political pundits. As we move through election season, we will continue to hear about Latino values. Representing Latino voters accurately requires knowledge of their opinions. Instead of relying on outdated and often unverified popular narratives, it is important to know how Latinos themselves define their  values, priorities and policy preferences.

Dr. Sylvia Manzano is Senior Project Manager for Latino Decisions, she can be reached at: sylvia.manzano@latinodecisions.com

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