Race and Politics

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Politics has always been divided Left versus Right. But with America's increasing diversity, perhaps more attention should be paid to racial and ethnic divides.

That is the premise of a new report entitled “What Ethnic Americans Really Think: the Zogby Culture Polls,� conducted by Zogby International, and sponsored by the National Italian American Foundation and the Center for Study of Culture and Values at Catholic University of America.

The report — which set out to provide a benchmark for how ethnic Americans define themselves politically and to understand the forces that shape their beliefs — surveyed 942 African Americans, 735 Hispanic Americans, 279 Asian Americans, 589 Jewish Americans, 604 Italian Americans and 501 Arab Americans. Collectively, these groups represent 40 percent of the U.S. population, making it a segment whose attitudes politicos cannot afford to ignore.

Of the six segments surveyed, the largest share of each group sides with the Democratic Party, although some have stronger affiliations than others. African Americans are the most overwhelmingly Democratic, with 78 percent registered to vote as such. Sixty-six percent of registered Jewish Americans and 57 percent of Hispanics are also Democrats. But Arab, Italian and Asian Americans are much more divided. For instance, while 38 percent of Arab Americans are Democrats, 36 percent are Republicans, and 21 percent are Independents. Italian Americans are similarly split, while Asian Americans break out as 36 percent, 26 percent and 31 percent, respectively.

But party lines don't always dictate policy positions. Large majorities of each segment take strong supportive positions on traditionally liberal issues, while also subscribing to conservative views on others. For example, at least 8 in 10 respondents in each group support liberal issues such as using the federal surplus to provide health insurance for the uninsured, and at least 9 in 10 of each segment favor imposing strict regulations on polluters. At the same time, a majority of each group champions certain conservative issues, such as giving school vouchers to parents so their children can attend any school they choose. And at least 74 percent of each group favors prosecuting teenagers as adults if they commit a violent crime using a handgun.

However, despite general agreement on many points, the groups are not always on the same wavelength (see chart). For instance, African Americans are more inclined to favor racial preferences in hiring or college admissions than any other group, and are least likely to favor the death penalty. And while 88 percent of Asian Americans are in favor of new gun control laws, just 70 percent of Italian Americans feel the same.

Within each group, there are differences as well, often depending upon length of time in America. In general, immigrants tend to be more conservative than native-born residents, according to the study. Butp Asians are the exception: A greater percentage of Asian immigrants (36 percent) consider themselves liberal, compared with 30 percent of those born in the U.S.

Because many ethnic minorities are recent immigrants and not yet citizens, voter registration is still low among some groups — Hispanic Americans and Asian Americans, for instance, significantly trail other ethnic groups in voter registration. Of those who are U.S. citizens, and are thus eligible to vote, however, 34 percent of Hispanic Americans and 32 percent of Asian Americans are not yet registered. Considering that Asian Americans and Hispanics are the most likely of all ethnic groups surveyed to visit a presidential candidate's Web site, perhaps it's time for someone to get these folks signed up.

But voting isn't the only way to participate in the political process, and some ethnic groups are doing more to involve themselves in the American way than others. Eighty-two percent of Arab Americans, for instance, watch presidential debates, compared with 71 percent of Jewish Americans. Ten percent of Hispanics and 11 percent of African Americans have volunteered to work for a presidential candidate, compared with 5 percent of Italian Americans. And 15 percent of African Americans and 16 percent of Jewish Americans have donated money to a presidential candidate, compared with 9 percent of Asians.

For more information, visit www.zogby.com or call Paul Way at (315) 624-0200 ext. 255.

Diff'rent Strokes

Sixty-two percent of Jewish Americans are “pro-choice� in all circumstances, when it comes to abortion rights, while just 24 percent of Hispanic Americans feel the same.

Racial preferences in hiring/college admissions 11% 32% 26% 17% 21% 21%
Death penalty 79% 64% 73% 68% 76% 72%
School boards have a right to restrict subjects taught 28% 32% 26% 20% 41% 36%
Use government surplus to provide health insurance for the working poor and children 84% 94% 94% 87% 90% 87%
Government imposition of strict regulations/fines on polluters 94% 92% 96% 93% 93% 93%
Pro-choice in all instances 29% 41% 24% 62% 39% 29%
Pro-choice, except for late-term abortion 24% 13% 10% 18% 12% 17%
Active U.S. participation in global trade 71% 70% 83% 77% 84% 80%
Allow patients to sue HMOs 86% 87% 90% 90% 75% 89%
Source: Zogby International
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