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The Arizona Republic

Latino Poll: Many Say Bring GIs Home Now

By Yvonne Wingett

March 15, 2005
Copyright © 2005 The Arizona Republic. All rights reserved.

Latinos are more likely than other Americans to favor an immediate withdrawal of military troops from Iraq, according to a new study.

More specifically, American-born Hispanics are about evenly split on how long to keep troops in Iraq while Latinos born in other countries favor a speedy pullout by a ratio of almost 2-1, according to a Pew Hispanic Center's survey conducted earlier this year, almost two years after the beginning of the war in Iraq.

"In the beginning, I truly thought it made sense to be there, that we were there for a good reason," said American-born Dennisse Moreno, 31, of west Phoenix. "But as time has progressed, I just don't see anything happening. I don't see anything good coming from it anymore. To be quite honest . . . I don't even remember why we went."

Political parties in Arizona and across the nation are monitoring opinions of the nation's fastest-growing minority group. Pollsters are finding interestingly diverse attitudes on the war and other issues among various subgroups of Latinos.

Hispanics have been an increasingly important target for both parties in Arizona, Florida, Texas and California, where they could play a key role in midterm elections. Latinos' skepticism on the war could limit Republican's potential inroads into the Hispanic electorate, traditionally Democratic-leaning.

The Pew Hispanic Center surveyed 1,003 adults who identified themselves as being of Latino or Hispanic origin or descent. The telephone survey was taken Jan. 11-27 and asked various questions about the war in Iraq. It had a margin of error of 3.1 percentage points.

Among the findings:

• The poll indicates 51 percent of Hispanics think troops should pull out of Iraq while 37 percent believe they should remain. By comparison, a Pew Research Center for the People and the Press survey done in January said that 41 percent of the public favored immediate troop withdrawal while 54 percent thought they should stay.

• American-born Latinos are almost evenly divided on when to bring the troops home: An immediate withdrawal is supported by 55 percent of foreign-born Latinos with 29 percent against immediate withdrawal. That division could be a reflection of partisanship, socioeconomics and news sources, Pew researchers and local political experts said.

And some of the opinion could reflect that they have family members fighting the war.

For working-class Latinos, the armed forces historically have been an avenue for economic and educational advancement. The military is not the only option for economic advancement for more established, educated, native-born Latinos, researchers said.

Support for bringing troops home also is more pronounced among those who lack a college education or have household incomes below $50,000 a year.

Of the 1.4 million people in the military, 125,768 in December described themselves as Hispanic, according to the Department of Defense. About 17,120 Hispanics from active-duty military services and 6,650 from the Guard and Reserve were deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan. Arizona figures were unavailable because they are not tracked by ethnic breakdown.

"It suggests the foreign-born in substantial numbers don't particularly see this as their fight," said Roberto Suro, director of Washington-based Pew Hispanic Center.

"They're not American. A large part of that population isn't here with legal status. You have people who are not on the road to citizenship, and in many ways, they're prevented from any kind of civic engagement."

Some foreign-born Hispanics also bring the political sentiments of their native countries with them, political experts said.

They come from countries, particularly Mexico, where the war is unpopular and leaders have expressed overwhelming anti-war messages.

"They need to come home," said central Phoenix's Rosa Maria Flores, who works as a janitor. "Many people are dying. Many innocent children are dying. I like the president, but I don't like the war. He isn't sending his children to the war. Why should we?"

Foreign-born Latinos likely are also influenced by Spanish-language media, which typically might not censor images of war as much as English-language media.

"You can see the full images on Spanish-language," said Adrian Pantoja, an Arizona State University professor of political science.

"When the war is sanitized, it becomes a video game: You're dropping bombs from a distance and nobody's getting killed."

Still, many Hispanics such as 58-year-old Gloria Eugenia Alvillar feel strongly that American troops should remain in Iraq until the mission is completed.

"We can't leave them now," the Tucson resident said.

"That would be horribly irresponsible. We need to stay, or there will be a blood bath and democracy will never take hold."


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