“Don’t label us,” seems to be the takeaway from a new survey on U.S. Latinos. Most of us would rather be known as “Mexican” or “Dominican” rather than “Latino” or “Hispanic,” and what is more, a majority of us – almost seven-in-ten- think U.S. Latino groups are made up of different cultures rather than a shared common culture.
These are some of the findings in a newly released poll by the Pew Hispanic Center, When Labels Don’t Fit: Hispanics and Their Views of Identity. Over half of Latinos (51 percent) describe themselves through their family’s country of origin rather than through a pan-ethnic term like Latino or Hispanic. In fact, less than one-quarter (24 percent) of Hispanics use “Latino” or “Hispanic” to describe themselves.
“What we found is that a family’s country of origin is the term Hispanics prefer to describe themselves,” says Mark Hugo López, Associate Director of the Pew Hispanic Center.
“Latinos’ responses reflect our diversity in a number of dimensions,” López says, adding “this includes countries of origin, language, where you are born and what region of the country you live in.”
If they had to choose, 33 percent preferred “Hispanic” and only 14 percent say “Latino” is a better term.
Is there a Latino “culture?” Less than three-in-ten Hispanics (29 percent) say there is a “common culture” among U.S. Hispanic groups.
On race: When it comes to race, most Hispanics do not want to be put into standard racial categories. Over half (51 percent) of Latinos identify as “some other race” or as “Hispanic/Latino.” Only 36 percent identify as white and 3 percent as black.
On Being “American”: Here, U.S. Latinos are split; nearly half (47 percent) say they are a “typical American,” and another 47 percent say they are different from a typical American. Among foreign-born U.S. Hispanics, 34 percent say they are a typical American, whereas 66 percent of native-born Hispanics identify themselves as such.
On whether the US or “home” is better: U.S. Latinos overwhelmingly “don’t look back” when it comes to their or their families’ decision to come to the United States from their home countries. The overwhelming majority – 87 percent – think opportunities here are better than in their or their ancestors’ home countries, and more than 70 percent think the U.S. is a better place to raise their children. What is more, 69 percent of Latinos think the poor are treated better here than in their home countries.
More Latinos, though, think their home countries are better than the U.S. when it comes to maintaining strong family ties; 39 percent think their home countries are better and 33 percent say family strength is better here.
English or Español? When it comes to the use of Español, 38 percent of the Latinos surveyed spoke more Spanish than English, another 38 percent were bilingual and 24 percent were English dominant. Over half (51 percent) of US-born Latinos speak primarily English.
And while nearly 9 in 10 Latinos say Hispanic immigrants need to learn English to succeed here in the US, nearly 95 percent believe it is very important or somewhat important for U.S. Hispanics to be able to speak Spanish.
Social views: While less than six-in-ten of the US public thinks most people can get ahead if they work hard, Latinos are more optimistic; 75 percent of Hispanics believe hard work allows you to get ahead. Yet Latinos are more wary of trusting others; 86 percent of Latinos say “you can’t be too careful” in dealing with people, compared to 61 percent of the public.
On homosexuality, Latinos are not more conservative than the general public. Six-in-ten Hispanics (59 percent) think homosexuality should be accepted, similar to 58 percent of the general public. But Latinos are more conservative than the general public on abortion: 51 percent of Latinos think abortion should be illegal in most or all cases, compared to 41 percent of the general public.
On religion, 69 percent of foreign-born Latinos say it is an important part of their lives, compared with 49 percent of US-born Hispanics. In fact, US-born Hispanics are less religious than the general public, at 58 percent.
On political views: The survey did not find Latinos to be more politically conservative than the general public. 32 percent of Latinos say they are conservative, compared to 34 percent of all US adults. Foreign-born immigrants are more conservative than native born, 35 percent versus 28 percent.
Latinos, however, are more liberal than the general public. 30 percent of Hispanic adults say they are liberal, versus 21 percent of US adults. Native-born Hispanics are more liberal (34 percent) than immigrants (27 percent).
On the role of government: 75 percent of Latinos prefer “a bigger government providing more services,” compared to 41 percent of the general public.
Only 19 percent- fewer than one in five – of Latinos preferrred smaller government, compared to almost half (48 percent) of the general public.
Pew Hispanic’s Mark Hugo López says the survey shows that “overall, Latinos see themselves as a diverse group coming from many different cultures,” adding it shows a “rich and diverse picture.”
One thing is certain – Latinos do not see themselves as a monolith.