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New Poll Looks At U.S. Latinos’ Foreign Policy Views

Significantly more Latinos than non-Latinos see climate change as a critical threat, but there is a narrower gap when asked about whether immigration is a threat to the country, according to a newly released poll by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs.

Yet on most foreign policy issues, Latinos had very similar views to non-Latinos when surveyed, challenging the notion that large numbers of Latino immigrants coming to the United States will not share the same values.

“Some people worry that the changing demographics will shift our foreign policy priorities and that Latin Americans will have greater loyalty to their countries of origin," said the study's co-author Dina Smeltz. "Instead what we see is an expression of investment in this country regarding economic policy and security.”

Both groups view the United States as the most influential country in the world and favor strong US leadership. By extension, Latinos and non-Latinos (68% and 69% respectively) approve of the use of American military forces to stop Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons and see terrorism as a critical threat.

On most issues, Latinos have very similar views to non-Latinos, a fact that challenges the notion that Hispanics coming to the U.S. will not share the same values.

Latinos are slightly more likely to support the use of troops for humanitarian and peacekeeping missions. Fifty four percent of Latinos, compared to 43% non-Latinos support sending a U.S. military peacekeeping mission to Syria.

However differences emerge on views toward climate change, immigration, and non-military based foreign policy goals.

Half of Latinos view climate change as a critical threat as compared to only one-third of non-Latinos.

When asked if “large numbers of immigrants and refugees entering the United States” was a critical threat 42% of non-Latinos considered that they were. In contrast, only 22% of Latinos view large immigration inflows as a threat to U.S. vital interests.

The split on immigration views is not new. Most recently in December a Pew poll found that eight out of 10 Latinos and six out of 10 non-Latinos approved of the president’s immigration executive action. Together, these indicators point to Latinos supporting more expansive immigration measures.

More generally, Latinos have positive views toward Mexico, the origin of the highest percentage of immigrants. The average rating of Latino feelings toward Mexico is 67, that's 16 points higher than the average score for non-Latinos.

Over half of Latinos see climate change as a critical threat compared to a third of non-Latinos.

The Chicago Council on Global Affairs poll is an annual survey with a large national sample measuring American attitudes toward foreign policy. For the first time, the most recent survey included an oversample of Latinos, with the total Latino sample close to 500. The margin of error for the Hispanic sample is plus or minus 5.3 percentage points.

“Given the growing electoral power of the Hispanic electorate in the 2008 and 2012 election, we thought it was a good time to take a look of this growing segment and understand their foreign policy views” said study co-author Craig Kafura.

Poll organizers note that Latino attitudes on domestic issues are frequently polled, while attitudes on foreign policy are not. They point out that as the Latino population continues to grow, Latino voters and elected officials will play an increasingly more important role in what happens beyond domestic issues.