Dec 21, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Exclusive poll: The wall divides Latino Americans

Data: Axios/Ipsos in partnership with Noticias Telemundo; Chart: Kavya Beheraj/Axios

Opposition among U.S. Latinos to walling off the U.S.-Mexico border is being driven by Mexican Americans and Central Americans, while Puerto Ricans are more ambivalent and a majority of Cuban Americans support the idea, according to the inaugural Axios-Ipsos Latino poll in partnership with Noticias Telemundo.

Why it matters: It's one striking example of the deep divisions among U.S. Latinos on a range of political and cultural issues that break down across geographic and generational lines.

  • The poll also found Latinos broadly support teaching about racism in school — but not if it's described as "critical race theory" — a trigger Republicans may seek to exploit in races around the country next year.

Driving the news: These are among the findings in the first installment of a national poll that examines the political, societal and cultural attitudes of a diverse population comprising nearly one in five Americans in the 2020 census — and about 13% of eligible U.S. voters.

  • COVID-19 and crime or gun violence were the top two concerns for U.S. Latinos, with immigration ranked behind climate change and inflation and supply chain issues.

By the numbers: Nearly three-fourths of Mexican Americans surveyed said they strongly or somewhat oppose the border wall. There are more than 38 million Mexican Americans in the U.S., about 62% of the Latino population.

  • 72% of Central Americans in the U.S. also oppose the wall. In recent years, migrants fleeing violence and poverty in Central America have been the largest group seeking entry via the U.S.-Mexico border.
  • 54% of Cuban Americans in the survey said they strongly or somewhat support a border wall or fence. Cuban Americans comprise about 2 million, or 3.2%, of Latinos in the country but hold disproportionate political power.
  • Nearly 45% of Puerto Ricans said they support a wall. Puerto Ricans are U.S. citizens by birth — whether they live in the 50 states or in the territory.

Between the lines: For decades, Central American and Mexican immigrants have faced violence along the U.S.-Mexico border from law enforcement agencies and see the wall as a symbol of discrimination.

  • They also been targeted for massive deportation operations in the U.S. that sometimes have wrongly caught up Mexican Americans.
  • Cuban Americans have had an easier path to the U.S. under preferential Cold War-era policies that allow migrants fleeing the socialist country to enter the U.S.

Overall, 68% of all Latinos surveyed said they opposed the border wall.

What they're saying: Cliff Young, president of Ipsos U.S. Public Affairs, said "proximity to the issue" is a major factor in how different groups of Latinos view the wall.

  • "You can think of proximity both in terms of distance and headspace," Young said. "The closer you are to the border the more salient border issues are. But it's also, 'Have I experienced it directly or indirectly?'"

Between the lines: Support for the wall is higher among Latino respondents the longer their families have lived in the U.S., said Ipsos pollster and senior vice president Chris Jackson.

  • The survey found support among 25% of first-generation Americans; 34% among the second-generation; and 43% for third-generation and higher.

But, but, but: The poll also found 68% of respondents support a path to U.S. citizenship for people in the country illegally.

  • Around 60% said they support allowing refugees fleeing crime and violence in Latin America to claim asylum in the U.S.

What we're watching: 69% of Latinos support public schools teaching about the history of slavery and racism.

  • But that drops to 39% when they're asked whether they support teaching critical race theory, highlighting the effect a conservative-led campaign that falsely claims CRT is in schools is having among Latinos.

Methodology: This Axios/Ipsos Latino Poll, in partnership with Noticias Telemundo, was conducted Dec. 2-14, 2021, by Ipsos' KnowledgePanel®. This poll is based on a nationally representative probability sample of 1,064 Hispanic/Latino adults age 18 or older.

  • The margin of sampling error is ±3.8 percentage points at the 95% confidence level, for results based on the entire sample.

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Editor's note: The article has been corrected to show that 68% of all Latinos surveyed said they opposed the border wall, not 58%.

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