Emerson Polling hosts “Unlocking the Hispanic Vote” panel


Chloe Els

Panelists setting up to present their findings.

By Chloe Els, Staff Writer

The Emerson College Polling Center held an “Unlocking the Hispanic Vote” panel on Tuesday to discuss its research of Hispanic people’s attitudes toward political engagement across the country. 

Director of Survey Operations Isabel Holloway, research assistant and senior political communications major Camila Arjona, and Director of Hispanic Qualitative Research Dr. Laura Barberena sat on the panel. All three work for Emerson Polling.

“Hispanics are the fastest growing minority in America,” Barberena said, addressing the reason Emerson Polling decided to conduct the study. “This trajectory begs the question: what effect will Hispanics have on public policy?”

The panelists began their research in April 2022 and focused on the Hispanic populations of Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Nevada, and Texas. In the full data reports, the results are organized by state, which gives insight into how America’s growing Hispanic population could impact state political party leanings, particularly in swing states like Georgia. Most participants were residents of major cities and their surrounding suburbs. 

The research was conducted through surveys and focus groups to gather both quantitative and qualitative data, mainly focused on the Hispanic population’s perception of issues and policy, politics, civic attitudes and voting, and the media.

Emerson Polling collected data using four methods: online surveys, texted links to the surveys, recorded automated robo-calls, and emails. Emerson Polling also hired two outside recruiting firms and offered up to $150 to participants as an incentive for attending focus group sessions.

Each focus group consisted of 8 to 12 people and was held in-person at professional focus group facilities. Most of the participants lived in major cities, but some participants traveled from suburban locations. Despite the challenges of getting people to attend the focus groups, researchers found that some participants were inspired to become more politically engaged after their sessions.

The panelists said the possibility of higher political engagement among Hispanic people could have an effect on future abortion rights. 

The survey found the Hispanic population aligns more closely with the Democratic party than the Republican party on abortion rights, which, according to Holloway, contradicts the common perception that the Hispanic community is heavily influenced by Catholicism and conservative ideology.

In a focus group session, a non-registered voter in Colorado said abortion rights were the most important issue to her, but she didn’t want to register to vote in favor of them. 

“She didn’t think her vote would matter,” Barberena said. 

Beyond abortion, Holloway was suprised by citizens’ lack of interest in registering to vote. She made a point to ask what it would take to get them to vote this November.

According to Arjona, up to 51% of participants responded “nothing.” Some said they needed more information, but many felt it was pointless to engage at all. 

In contrast, when registered Hispanic voters were asked why they vote, many considered it their duty as a citizen. Holloway said this sentiment was particularly popular amongst first-generation Americans.

In states like Georgia, Holloway explained, voting accessibility can vary drastically, and disparities within Georgia and Texas led to limited voting access for the Hispanic population. 

Barberena continued this point, noting that many Hispanic people in Texas experience confusion regarding voter registration due to the state’s long history of voter suppression. 

Meanwhile, Colorado has the most abundant voter access, particularly due to state wide distribution of ballot information “blue books”, and it is also the state Emerson Polling found to have the most apathetic Hispanic population towards political engagement. 

While Florida’s Hispanic population positively perceived the Republican Party and Arizona’s positively perceived the Democratic Party, the Hispanic population in Colorado was neutral to both parties, according to Holloway.

In the focus groups, participants said the most important political issue to them was the state of the economy, particularly with inflation on the rise. 

“They framed the economy in their everyday experiences,” Barberena said, “They shared their concerns about rising gas prices. Some are worried about not being able to afford a house.” 

At the end of the panel, audience members were invited to ask questions, prompting discussions about topics like the researchers’ screening process for participants.

“We allowed [the participants] to define who they are,” Barberena said in regards to how she confirmed participants were Hispanic. “There can be uncertainty about becoming so American that you lose your identity as a Latino. What matters is how we see ourselves.”

Click here to view the full results of Emerson Polling’s “Unlocking the Hispanic Vote” research.