Economy, Not Immigration, a Top Worry of Latinos

By N.C. Aizenman
Washington Post Staff Writer
January 16, 2009

The immigration issue has receded in importance for Latinos amid their mounting alarm over the economy, according to a nationwide poll released yesterday by the nonpartisan Pew Hispanic Center.

Only 31 percent of Latinos surveyed cited immigration as an "extremely important" priority for the incoming Obama administration, ranking the issue behind not only the economy but education, health care, national security and the environment.

By contrast, 38 percent of Hispanics judged immigration "extremely important" in a similar poll taken in December 2007, several months after an unsuccessful proposal to overhaul the country's immigration system and offer illegal immigrants a path to citizenship sparked rancorous debate in Congress.

Even then, immigration was ranked only fifth on a list of six possible priorities for Latinos, who make up 15 percent of the population and include both new arrivals and people whose roots in the United States stretch back generations. What has changed most is Latinos' focus on the economy: Fifty-seven percent now cite it as "extremely important" compared with 43 percent in the December 2007 poll.

Similarly, according to the current poll, 31 percent of Latino respondents who voted in the presidential election said the economy was the issue that mattered most in their decision. Only 6 percent cited immigration, about half the number that cited "candidates' attributes" or "a general desire for change."

Mark Hugo Lopez, co-author of the survey released yesterday, cautioned that the results might reflect Latinos' increasing concern with the economy rather than mounting apathy over immigration. He noted that 75 percent of Hispanics reported that immigration should be at least a "very important" priority for president-elect Barack Obama, and 88 percent cited it as at least "important." ... 02310.html