September 8, 2016 | By Dina Smeltz, Sara McElmurry

Americans Love Taco Trucks – and are Positive Toward Mexican Immigrants, Too


Last week, Marco Gutierrez, a Mexican immigrant, real estate developer, and founder of a group named Latinos for Trump, issued an ominous warning about the consequences of not electing Donald Trump to the White House this November: “Taco trucks on every corner” of the United States.

“My culture is a very dominant culture,” he explained. “It’s imposing and it’s causing problems.”

While his comments channeled Trump supporters’ perceptions of a cultural threat from the growing Latino community in the United States, his taco truck remark provoked a backlash on social media. The reaction against Gutierrez’s comments suggest that he not only misjudged how much America loves Mexican food, but also the extent to which US voters are finally embracing the immigrants behind the cuisine.

Salsa replaced ketchup as the number-one selling condiment in the United States two decades ago. An industry analyst said that “the taste for salsa is as mainstream as apple pie” way back in 1992. More recently, seven in ten Americans gave Mexican food a favorable rating in a 2013 survey by Public Policy Polling. In a twist of irony, the survey found that Republicans like Mexican food slightly more than Democrats, at 73 percent versus 69 percent respectively.

As Americans have grown more positive about Mexican food, they are also increasingly approving of the Mexican immigrants who originally brought salsa, tortillas, and tacos into the mainstream diet. New results from the 2016 Chicago Council Survey show that a full 60 percent of Americans now express favorable views of Mexican immigrants. That number is up from 54 percent in 2013, when respondents were last asked this question.

Among Democrats, there has been a 10 percentage point increase to 74 percent holding a favorable view, up from 64 percent in 2013. And most tellingly, favorability is also up among Republicans at 46 percent, compared to 38 percent in 2013.

Upon closer examination, survey results reveal not all Republicans feel the same way about Mexican immigrants. In fact, those whose top choice for president was a primary candidate other than Donald Trump expressed majority favorable views of Mexican immigrants (56%).  Only those who said that Donald Trump was their top choice for president were majority unfavorable (65%), with just 33 percent favorable—a substantial 23 percentage point difference with non-Trump supporters.  

Mexican immigrants Living in the United States





Trump Primary

Non-Trump Primary













Interestingly, Trump supporters are not negative toward Mexicans outside of the United States. A full 75 percent hold favorable views about “Mexicans living in Mexico”—an incredible 42 percentage point increase over those approving of Mexican immigrants in the United States. To be fair, all Americans are more favorable toward Mexican in Mexico over immigrants, but the jump was highest among Trump supporters. 

Mexicans Living in Mexico





Trump Primary

Non-Trump Primary













While Trump’s anti-Mexican appeals to his base may have gained him traction in the primaries, it is not a winning strategy for the White House. (The candidate is now actually losing his own supporters over anti-immigrant outbursts. Half of Trump’s Latino advisory committee withdrew their support last week, following his hardline speech on immigration in Arizona.)

Nor is nativism a sound long-term strategy for a Republican Party interested in remaining relevant to an increasingly diverse electorate in future elections.

The U.S. Hispanic population is projected to triple by 2050; a full 82 percent of U.S. population growth during this timeframe will be due to immigrants and their children. And notably, this demographic shift is happening in places where one might least expect it. The Midwestern cities of Davenport, Duluth, South Bend, and Terre Haute, for example, owe 100 percent of their population growth between 2000 and 2010 to immigration.

America’s long-term demographic destiny suggests that anti-Mexican sentiments and hardline immigration policies will find no traction in its multicultural communities of 2050.

But even in the America of 2016, anti-immigrant rhetoric finds little support outside of Trump’s base. From immigrant gateways like Chicago to unexpected places like Duluth, much of America already has—and embraces—a taco truck on its corner.  


The Chicago Council on Global Affairs highlights critical shifts in American public thinking on US foreign policy through public opinion surveys and research conducted under the Lester Crown Center on US Foreign Policy. 

The annual Chicago Council Survey, first conducted in 1974, is a valuable resource for policymakers, academics, media, and the general public. The Council also surveys American leaders in government, business, academia, think tanks, and religious organizations biennially to compare trends in their thinking with overall trends. And collaborating with partner organizations, the survey team periodically conducts parallel surveys of public opinion in other regions of the world to compare with US public opinion. 

The Running Numbers blog features regular commentary and analysis from the Council’s public opinion and US foreign policy research team, including a series of flash polls of a select group of foreign policy experts to assess their opinions on critical foreign policy topics driving the news.


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