SOURCE: UCLA Chicano Studies Research Center

May 01, 2008 17:30 ET

New Study Shows Distinct Ethnic and Political Identity for Mexican Americans

LOS ANGELES, CA--(Marketwire - May 1, 2008) - Mexican Americans identify with their ethnic culture, and ethnic identification remains strong across generations, according to a report released Thursday, May 1, 2008, by the UCLA Chicano Studies Research Center.

The report -- based on the study and book titled "Generations of Exclusions: Mexican Americans, Assimilation, and Race" (Russell Sage Foundation, 2008) -- concluded that ethnic assimilation among Mexican Americans is slow. The results, which are drawn from a longitudinal and intergenerational research study that updates "The Mexican American People" (1970), measured various markers of assimilation over a nearly 40-year time span.

"These findings support the view that Mexican Americans are part of an ethnic political community with a distinct ethnic and political sensibility," said the study's authors, UCLA sociology professor Edward E. Telles and UCLA associate sociology professor Vilma Ortiz.

For instance, when asked to name their ethnic identity, most respondents replied that they were Mexican or Mexican American. Smaller percentages identified as Chicano, Latino, or Hispanic. About 10 percent did not mention an ethnic group, preferring a term such as "American."

Sociologists also asked respondents about their racial identity and found that 38 percent of the first generation identified as white. White identity was markedly weaker among the children of original respondents and it declined with each successive generation.

The study also measured political party voting shifts among respondents and found that although a substantial majority of respondents did report voting for the Democratic candidate in 1964 and 1996, voting Republican increased in 2000.

By the 1996 presidential election, more original respondents -- 6 percent of the first generation and 17 percent of the third generation -- voted for the Republican candidate.

Although Mexican Americans in the study moved away from their traditional support for the Democratic Party, respondents agreed with Democratic positions on several controversial issues including immigration.

When asked in 2000 whether respondents agreed that Mexicans should be able to immigrate to the United States if they want to, a majority said yes.

Children of original respondents were less supportive than their parents, however, with just over half responding affirmatively. These numbers are, nonetheless, significantly higher than those reported by non-Hispanic whites and blacks.

"This intergenerational study suggests that Mexican American political participation has increased over time, but that a distinct ethnic and political sensibility remains in place," the study's authors noted.

The first study surveyed Mexican Americans living in Los Angeles and San Antonio in 1965 and 1966. From 1998 to 2002, nearly 700 of the original respondents were re-interviewed in addition to approximately 760 of their adult children.

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