success stories

Results of a nationwide survey of Hispanics

from the Catholic News Service

A nationwide survey of Hispanics reports that a majority want bilingual education programs to concentrate on teaching English well.

It also found a general dissatisfaction with public school education. Most Hispanics responding to the survey said they prefer that government money be used to improve public schools rather than for school vouchers which would allow parents to send children to church-run or other private schools.

It also reported that 73 percent identify themselves as Catholics and that church attendance is high. Half said they attend church services at least once a week and 72 percent said they attend at least once a month.

The survey of 1,000 adult Hispanics was commissioned by The Latino Coalition, a private organization promoting Hispanic economic, social and political issues. It was released Aug. 20 in Washington and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percent. The telephone interviews were conducted Aug. 2-14.

The survey concentrated on political, economic and social issues and showed widespread support for President Bush.

Most Hispanics want to adapt to U.S. society and have an overwhelming optimism that the quality of life will improve for their children here, the survey said.

Almost 56 percent said "the Hispanic community should become more a part of American society, even if it means losing some of its own cultural identity." Almost 33 percent said "the Hispanic community should keep its own culture, even if it means staying somewhat separate from the rest of American society."

Almost 70 percent said the quality of life for their children will be better than theirs. Only 12 percent predicted that it would be worse.

When asked to name the greatest barrier to Latino success in the United States, Hispanics gave the top spot to language, 29 percent, followed by lack of education, 19 percent, and discrimination, 14 percent.

The three are related, said Robert de Posada, Latino Coalition president.

"Lack of English proficiency is the main cause for lower levels of education and for much of the discrimination they (Hispanics) face," he said.

Regarding bilingual education, 68 percent said the purpose should be "to make sure that students learn English well." Twenty-six percent said the purpose should be "to teach immigrant children in their native language so that they don't fall behind in other matters."

On public education, 56 percent gave a negative rating to their local public schools and 39 percent gave a positive rating.

To improve public education, 64 percent favored increased government funding to public schools. School vouchers were favored by 32 percent.

The strong support for English proficiency comes from a group in which Spanish remains the favored language. Fifty-five percent took the survey in Spanish. Almost half, 48 percent, said they speak Spanish most or all of the time as compared to 27 percent who said they speak English all or most of the time. Twenty-four percent said they speak Spanish and English equally.

When asked what is the most important political issue affecting Latinos, the highest ratings went to immigration policy and discrimination with 18 percent each and education, 15 percent.

However, 68 percent said that they could not think of a specific instance in the past year in which they felt discriminated against because of racial or ethnic background. Since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 64 percent said they noticed no change in other people's attitudes toward them, 18 percent said they noticed a change for the better, and 18 percent said they noticed a change for the worse.

More than half, 59 percent, favor giving illegal immigrants the same government benefits and rights as legal immigrants. An overwhelming majority, 82 percent, approve of the Bush plan to normalize the status of 3.5 million illegal Mexican immigrants employed here.

Bush, who has made a concerted effort to reach Hispanic voters, received an approval rating as president from 68 percent. Congressional Democrats, however, received an approval rating from 54 percent while congressional Republicans received a 42 percent approval rating.

Almost 60 percent of the respondents said that they were registered voters.