Latino Views on U.S. Foreign Policy Consistent with Those of Larger U.S. Public

February 24, 2015
When it comes to views on U.S. foreign policy, Hispanic Americans are more like other American populations than not, according to survey data from The Chicago Council on Global Affairs.

“Given that Latinos are the fastest-growing segment of the U.S. population, candidates looking to 2016 would do well to consider Hispanic American views on foreign policy issues beyond the traditional lens of immigration,” said Dina S. Smeltz, the Council’s senior fellow on public opinion and foreign policy.

“A recurring argument among Americans concerned about the large number of Latino immigrants coming to the United States has been that they will not share the same values – foreign policy or otherwise – as other Americans. But our data finds that Hispanic Americans share a very similar worldview and foreign policy preferences with the larger U.S. public, something few studies have previously examined.”

Specifically, survey results show that:
  • Like the overall U.S public, Latinos favor strong U.S. leadership in the world and consider the United States to be the most influential nation now and in 10 years’ time. Sixty-five percent of Hispanics and non-Hispanics alike said that the United States has a unique character that makes it the greatest country in the world.
  • Hispanics and other Americans consider terrorism, nuclear proliferation, Iran’s nuclear program and cyber attacks to be critical threats to U.S. vital interests.
  • Both groups support a foreign policy that relies on multiple means of diplomatic and economic engagement, including alliances, treaties and trade agreements.
  • Majorities of both groups support the use of U.S. troops to help prevent a government from committing genocide, to deal with humanitarian crises, to ensure the oil supply, to stop Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons and to combat terrorism.
  • At the time of this survey, conducted before the Obama administration announced the renewal of ties with Cuba, both Hispanics and non-Hispanics were equally likely to favor dialogue with Cuba as well as with North Korea and Iran.

Despite these similarities, there are some key differences, especially on the topics of immigration, climate change and the United Nations:

  • Latinos are less threatened than non-Latinos by the prospect of large numbers of immigrants and refugees coming into the United States. They are less likely to prioritize controlling and reducing illegal immigration as a top foreign policy goal.
  • A majority of Hispanics, compared to only one third of non-Hispanics, consider climate change to be a “critical” threat.
  • A majority of Hispanics, compared to roughly four in ten non-Hispanics, think combating world hunger should be a “very important” goal of U.S. foreign policy.
  • At least six in ten Latinos say that the UN is doing a good job in a variety of areas, while many fewer non-Latinos say the same in every case.

“As the Latino population grows in size and political strength, its political leadership is likely to exert greater influence on issues of particular importance to the Hispanic community – such as climate change. But it’s also clear that a candidate interested in earning the Latino vote must also realize that a Hispanic-American political agenda is essentially an American one,” said report co-author and Council research associate Craig Kafura.

This data is pulled from the 2014 Chicago Council Survey report, Foreign Policy in the Age of Retrenchment, which finds solid public support for the United States having an “active” role in world affairs. Additional polling information is available on The Chicago Council’s data-related blog, For updates follow @ChicagoCouncil and @RoguePollster.

This special report on Hispanics’ foreign policy views has been made possible by the generous support of Douglas A. Doetsch and Evans Food Group, Ltd. The 2014 Chicago Council Survey would not have been possible without the support of The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the Robert R. McCormick Foundation and Lester Crown and the Crown Family.

Data was collected May 6 to May 29, 2014, among a representative national sample of 2,108 adults, including 498 Hispanics. The margin of sampling error for the full sample is ±2.5 percentage points; among Hispanics, the margin of error is ±5.3 percentage points.