Latinos’ Views on US Foreign Policy

Bettina Neuefeind / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

As the Latino population in the United States grows, their political participation has become a topic of increasing interest and relevance. On February 24th, the Inter-American Dialogue, in partnership with the Chicago Council on Global Affairs and the U.S. Department of State, held a discussion on the launch of a new report, “Latinos’ Views on the U.S. Foreign Policy” by the Chicago Council. Ray Suarez, host of Inside Story on Al Jazeera America, moderated the discussion. He was joined by Dina Smeltz, Senior Fellow for Public Opinion and Foreign Policy at the Chicago Council and the lead author of the report, Manuel Orozco, Senior Fellow at the Dialogue, and David Duckenfield, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Outreach at the U.S. Department of State.

The report focuses on Latinos’ views on the role of the United States in the world, in terms of its leadership and engagement. On foreign policy, both Hispanic and non-Hispanic respondents favor a multidimensional approach in diplomatic and economic issues, supporting the dialogues with Cuba and the use of the military when necessary. Both groups have similar views on threats to the U.S., especially regarding terrorism, nuclear weapons, and cyber-attacks. More importantly, Hispanics and non-Hispanics alike say that their first priority is protecting American jobs.

On the other hand, Latinos differ from other Americans on four main issues: immigration, climate change, hunger, and perceptions of the United Nations. Specifically, Latinos report that they do not feel as threatened by the arrival of large numbers of immigrants. They are also more concerned with climate change and hunger, and have more positive attitudes about the role of the United Nations and its achievements.

Dina Smeltz noted that for the upcoming presidential elections, both parties have noted the increased influence of the Hispanic vote, which led the Chicago Council to compare Latino views to the larger U.S. public opinion on foreign policy. According to Smeltz, parallel to the different concerns, Latinos view climate change as a greater threat. “Latino participation is likely to increase while raising attention to more humanitarian and environmental concerns,” she concluded.

Climate change and environmental concerns are foreign policy topics reflected on domestic policy, Manuel Orozco noted. “At the cultural level, it is a counterintuitive issue: a Latino living in the U.S. that deals with the daily impacts of the environment will start to think globally,” he said. Moreover, immigration is an ‘intermestic’ issue that combines international and domestic aspects for both Latinos and the other Americans, Orozco stated.

Addressing the role of Latinos and their importance for the United States, David Duckenfield highlighted efforts by the U.S. Department of State to reach out to Latino community groups and their media outlets. The international mindset of Latino voters is important, and may gain more political influence in coming years, Duckenfield concluded.

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