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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Foundations of Latino Party Identification: Learning, Ethnicity and Demographic Factors Among Mexicans, Puerto Ricans, Cubans and Anglos in the United States

  • Author(s): Uhlaner, Carole J
  • Garcia, F. Chris
  • et al.

There is limited solid evidence on the determinants of partisan preference among Latinos in the United States. This study makes use of the Latino National Political Survey to explore the partisanship of Mexican-Americans, Cuban-Americans, and Puerto Ricans on the mainland and, in comparison, that of non-Latino whites (Anglos). We particularly focus upon the relationships between learning, demographic factors and partisanship. Our national data generally validates the overall pattern of preferences found in more limited studies: strong Republican Party preferences among the Cuban-Americans and Democratic partisanship within the other two groups. We also find that the demographic correlates of preference vary substantially across these ethnic groups. One result that does hold for all three Latino groups is an increase in Democrat Party identification with experience of U.S. politics (as measured by age or time in the United States). This result supports a learning-theory view of Latino partisanship. We also find that those Latinos who are more integrated into their ethnic culture are more likely to support the party dominant for their group. When we turn our attention to factors that distinguish independents from partisans, we find fewer differences across groups. Higher education and older age tend to be associated with partisanship as has been found for the general US population. For both direction and independence, religion matters for Anglos and Puerto Ricans but not the other two groups. Finally, we examine strong versus weak attachment among partisans and again find age effects. This research demonstrates how learning theories of partisan identification can be elucidated by analyzing an understudied sub-population of Americans. It also underscores the importance of resisting the impulse of grouping all Latinos under a single heading in the study of their political behavior.

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