ABOUT THIS BOOK
In recent years, immigration has been an issue in most U.S. national elections, sparking heated debate across the political spectrum. But how do immigrants themselves make sense of and participate in U.S. politics? In this issue of RSF, editors James McCann and Michael Jones-Correa and an interdisciplinary team of leading immigration scholars examine political engagement among Latinos. The eleven articles in this issue analyze data from a survey of the Latino population during the 2012 presidential campaign and focus on the political activity of both native-born and immigrant Latinos—including the undocumented.
Several articles examine the incorporation of the foreign-born into American politics. Katharine Donato and Samantha Perez track differences in Latinos’ political ideologies by gender and find that among new immigrants, women tend to hold more conservative political views than men. However, after living in the U.S. for five years, Latinas report themselves as more liberal; after fifteen years of U.S. residence, Latino men view themselves as more conservative. Frank D. Bean and Susan K. Brown show that due to “membership exclusion”—or significant relegation to the margins of society—undocumented immigrants have less political knowledge than those with green cards or driver’s licenses, regardless of how long they have resided here. Melissa Michelson explores how politicians’ expanded outreach to Latino communities during the 2012 election season helped reverse a decades-long trend of declining trust in the government among Latinos.
Other articles compare the political behavior of Latinos to that of other ethnic groups. Jan Leighley and Jonathan Nagler find that while the demographic patterns central to predicting whites’ political engagement—such as income and education levels—do not predict Latinos’ voting turnout, increased political outreach to Latinos has led to greater turnout. Leonie Huddy, Lily Mason, and Nechama Horwitz find that, similar to African Americans, Latino immigrants who both strongly identify with a minority group (in this case, Hispanic) and perceive discrimination against that group are more likely to align themselves with the Democratic Party.
With Latinos constituting an increasing percentage of the population, understanding how and when they participate in our political system is vital for policymakers, scholars, and advocates. The analyses in this issue of RSF provide contribute to our understanding of how immigrants and their descendants navigate American democracy.