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New York City Hispanics Hold Bleaker Views, Poll Finds


August 8, 2003
Copyright © 2003 THE NEW YORK TIMES. All rights reserved. 

Hispanics in New York City are unhappier with their government and more pessimistic about the economy than Hispanics in the nation as a whole, the latest New York Times/CBS News Poll has found. In many ways, the poll shows, they hold opinions that are closer to those of their fellow New Yorkers than to those of Hispanics in the rest of the country.

The differences are more pronounced among the city's largest Hispanic subgroup, Puerto Ricans, who are more likely to have been born in the 50 states, or to have lived there longer, than Hispanics from other countries. When their responses are removed from the poll results, the responses of the Dominicans, Mexicans and Ecuadoreans who make up most of the rest of New York's polyglot Hispanic population are often more in line with the responses by Hispanics elsewhere, who are predominantly of Mexican descent.

In New York, however, 79 percent of Puerto Ricans are registered to vote, making them more likely than other Hispanics to express their opinions in a voting booth.

Over all, 51 percent of Hispanics in New York City said they disapproved of the way President Bush was handling his job, as did 61 percent of non-Hispanics in the city. Nationwide, only 38 percent of Hispanics and 41 percent of non-Hispanics disapproved of the president's performance.

The unhappiness among New York's Hispanics extends to local leaders like Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, who is given worse marks than the president: 74 percent of Hispanics and 65 percent of other New Yorkers disapprove of the job he is doing.

On the economy, too, Hispanic New Yorkers have greater anxieties than Hispanics in the rest of the country. About half of all Hispanics in the city said they thought the economy was getting worse, compared with 35 percent of Hispanics in the rest of the country.

That pessimism places them closer to other New Yorkers, with 41 percent saying the economy is worsening, than to Hispanics in the rest of the nation. The difference can most likely be explained by the fact that the recession has been slower to ease in the region, and the unemployment rate has been higher than in the rest of the country.

The city poll was conducted July 13 through 27 as part of a nationwide telephone survey of 3,092 adults, of whom 1,074 considered themselves Hispanic. The New York City portion of the poll included 391 Hispanic residents and 420 non-Hispanics.

The margin of sampling error is plus or minus four percentage points for all New Yorkers and five points for Hispanics and non-Hispanics separately. The size of the telephone survey allowed for an examination of attitudes among Puerto Rican New Yorkers, but there were not enough respondents from other nationalities to analyze their opinions separately.

Puerto Ricans make up 38 percent of the Hispanic population in New York, according to the 2000 census. Nationwide, Mexicans are the dominant group, making up 67 percent of the country's Hispanic population.

One area in which that diversity plays out is in attitudes toward immigration. Only 19 percent of Puerto Ricans, who are American citizens even when born in Puerto Rico, say legal immigration to the United States should be increased, while 36 percent said they would prefer to see it reduced. Among other New York Hispanics, 31 percent said immigration should increase and 25 percent said it should be curtailed. Nationwide, 28 percent of Hispanics said immigration should increase; 27 percent wanted it reduced.

Republicans are bringing their national convention to New York City next summer and have announced their intentions to win the state for President Bush, but they may not have an easy time of it. Over all, 62 percent of city residents had an unfavorable opinion of the Republican Party, and so did 52 percent of Hispanic New Yorkers, including 66 percent of Puerto Ricans.

Nationally and in the city, most Hispanics have a generally favorable view of the Democratic Party.

Mr. Bloomberg, too, was viewed unfavorably by New York City's Hispanics, despite his efforts to reach out to various Hispanic groups and their leaders. Seventy-four percent said they disapproved of the way he was handling his job, in line with the 72 percent of non-Hispanic blacks and 63 percent of whites in the city who also voiced disapproval. The numbers show a steady erosion in support for him over the last year.

Hispanics seem to be among the unhappiest of Mr. Bloomberg's constituents; when asked how much they thought he cared about their needs and problems, 45 percent answered "not at all," compared with 36 percent of non-Hispanic blacks and 24 percent of non-Hispanic whites.

Apparently aware of the problem, Mr. Bloomberg, in the past week alone, flew to Santo Domingo, marched in an Ecuadorean parade in Queens and a Puerto Rican Day Parade in the Bronx, spoke Spanish at different events and held a reception at Gracie Mansion "in honor of Dominican cultural heritage."

But it may take more effort to sway residents like Marilyn Perez, 49, a Republican and mortgage officer from Queens. In a follow-up interview, Mrs. Perez said that among the mayor's attempted budget cuts were city services for children with disabilities, like her 9-year-old son. And as a smoker, she said, "I feel that he's making my life miserable."

"I'm so annoyed with Bloomberg I don't want to live in New York any more," she said.

Hispanics, in fact, found President Bush more caring than their mayor; only 19 percent said the president did not care at all about their problems.

That was not the only sign of hope for national Republicans. Hispanics other than Puerto Ricans hold a more favorable opinion of President Bush and the Republican Party. Republicans are focusing on New York's Hispanics as potential new party members and opening an outreach office in Washington Heights, in Upper Manhattan, where many Dominicans live.

Still, more typical of the poll respondents was Julio Pilco, 39, an Ecuadorean waiter from Queens and a Democrat. He linked both Mayor Bloomberg and President Bush to "the bad economic situation."

"Bush is spending too much money on the war, money that could go to poor people, to schools," he said in a follow-up interview.

Mr. Pilco said Mr. Bloomberg was busy extracting money from New Yorkers any way he could. "Taxes are up," he said. "They ticket people for nothing – for feeding pigeons, for sitting down on the street, for riding a bicycle in the park. They are sucking money out of people, and people don't have jobs."

The prospect of losing a job is particularly worrisome. More than half of New York Hispanics, 58 percent, said they were concerned that someone in their household might be out of work in the next year.

Black New Yorkers were just as concerned – 56 percent also said they feared unemployment – but more Hispanics are unemployed, and they generally make less money than other city residents, the poll found. Among Hispanics, 62 percent of households have an income of less than $30,000 a year, compared with 46 percent for non-Hispanic blacks and 25 percent for whites.

The poll said Hispanic New Yorkers are more likely to be Democrats, to speak English and to support affirmative action, and are somewhat more liberal on social issues like abortion rights and gay marriages than Hispanics nationwide.

Hispanic New Yorkers, however, share many similarities with other Hispanics that set their ethnic group apart. Unlike most non-Hispanics, most Hispanics everywhere would prefer a tax cut over reducing the federal budget deficit. And the majority of all Hispanics do not use computers at home, at work or in school, unlike more than 70 percent of non-Hispanic respondents.

Spanish is the big unifier among Hispanics in this country, but the poll found that in New York as well as nationwide, more than two-thirds of Hispanics would not be any more or any less likely to vote for a political candidate who speaks Spanish. Another clear majority, 71 percent in New York and 67 nationwide, said that whether a company uses Spanish to pitch a product makes no difference in what they buy.

(Most respondents said they were born outside the United States and Puerto Rico: 59 percent in New York, 57 percent nationally.)

Culturally, Hispanics everywhere hold views on gender roles and race that sometimes reflect more the values of Latin America than those of the United States. A majority of Hispanics in the city and nationwide said most men they knew thought they were better than women, a view shared by a majority of non-Hispanic blacks in New York but by only a third of non-Hispanic whites.

And just as they did in the last census, a significant number of Hispanic respondents nationwide, and a majority in New York, refused to be pigeonholed into the standard racial categories and answered "other" when asked their race.

As a group, New York Hispanics were somewhat less inclined to see relations among the different ethnic groups in a positive light than non-Hispanic blacks and whites. Relations between Hispanics and non-Hispanic whites were described as generally good by 73 percent of whites in the city. But just 57 percent of Hispanics in New York said they felt the same way. Seventy-seven percent of non-Hispanic blacks view their relationship with Hispanics as good. Only 52 percent of Hispanics agreed.

How the Poll Was Conducted

he latest New York Times/CBS News Poll is based on telephone interviews conducted July 13 through 27 with 3,092 adults throughout the United States. Of those, 1,074 identified themselves as Hispanic in origin or descent. Interviews were in English or Spanish.

Of the 3,092 total respondents, 811 were interviewed in New York City: 391 Hispanics and 420 non-Hispanics.

The national Hispanic sample was drawn in three ways. First, based on all Times/CBS News polls since January 2001, every phone number that resulted in an interview with a self-identified Hispanic was called back for the new study. Second, every phone number that yielded a Spanish-speaking person from those same polls was also called back, even though in the original poll only English speakers were interviewed, according to standard practice by pollsters. Third, to supplement the sample, new phone numbers composed of random digits were called in exchanges around the country that contain 35 percent or more Hispanic residents, based on census data.

Nationally, the non-Hispanic portion of the sample was composed of callbacks to phone numbers in all Times/CBS News polls since January 2001 where respondents had originally identified themselves as non-Hispanic.

Similarly, the New York City sample was constructed following comparable steps, based on local polls by The Times and CBS News in 2002 and 2003. An exception was that in the city, non-Hispanic respondents resulted from random digit dialing rather than from callbacks.

The resulting oversamples of Hispanic respondents were weighted down to their proper proportion of the population in the United States and in New York City, respectively.

The results have been weighted to take account of household size and number of telephone lines into the residence and to adjust for variations in the sample relating to geographic region, sex, race, age, education and native versus foreign born.

In theory, in 19 cases out of 20, the results based on such samples will differ by no more than two or three percentage points in either direction from what would have been obtained by seeking out all American adults, and by no more than four percentage points from what would have been obtained by seeking out all adult New Yorkers.

For smaller subgroups the margin of sampling error is correspondingly larger: three points for non-Hispanic respondents nationally, four points for Hispanic respondents nationally, and five points for either non-Hispanic or Hispanic respondents in New York City.

In addition to sampling error, the practical difficulties of conducting any survey of public opinion may introduce other sources of error into the poll. Variation in English versus Spanish wording of questions, for example, may lead to somewhat different results.

Complete results are available at

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