Education big in Latino poll
The Arizona Republic
Jun. 27, 2004
Elvia Díaz and Yvonne Wingett
Latinos don't seem to be losing much sleep over the war on terror that has
polarized the nation. But they are worried about health care, jobs and college
That's the perspective of 1,000 Hispanics surveyed nationwide at the end of May
by the New York-based Zogby International.
The poll will be released today in Phoenix, while tens of thousands Hispanics
gather downtown and the national spotlight is on Latino USA's largest annual
Education topped the list of concerns. Thirty-four percent of those who
responded said education is their most pressing issue. Twenty-two percent picked
the economy and jobs as their top priorities. Immigration, civil rights and
health care registered 8 percent or less, though still in the top five most
But only a small fraction, or 2 percent, said the war on terror matters most to
"The war on terror isn't even part of my vocabulary," said Claudia López, 22, of
Glendale, who's convinced that obtaining a college degree will help her succeed
here or anyplace else. "The 9/11 attacks were shocking but are not something I
think about every day."
The findings left some Latino leaders with a bittersweet taste, scrambling for
explanations and searching for solutions.
The poll reaffirms that the nation's largest minority group values education.
But it doesn't hint to why many Latinos are dropping out of high school and why
so many don't finish college, said Napoleon Pisaño of the Arizona Hispanic
Community Forum, who also works for an outreach program at Arizona State
"You can point the finger to parents, students and teachers," Pisaño said.
"We're all responsible."
Raul Yzaguirre, the outgoing president and chief executive officer of the
National Council of La Raza, said the findings could help that group and others
advocate for legislation and programs to deal with some of the concerns.
López, a Mexican immigrant, points to two things that could help her stay in
college: legal residency status for her and a permanent job for her mother.
She will begin law school in the fall, but her future in Arizona remains
uncertain because she does not have permanent residency.
Poor health care access
Although most of those polled were born in the United States, pollsters made a
point to question those from Cuba, Puerto Rico and Spain, and Latinos from
Central and South America. The margin of error of the poll is plus or minus 3.2
percentage points. The poll was commissioned by the National Council of La Raza,
based in Washington, D.C.
Most Latinos, or 72 percent, said affordable health insurance is inaccessible.
Most would be willing to pay more taxes to provide health insurance.
Paula Flores, a south Phoenix resident who suffers from asthma, is among those
who believe medical insurance is too expensive. She racks up more than $4,000 in
medical bills that eat away her yearly salary as a linen worker, she said.
"A lot of the Latin communities can't get it because the insurance premiums are
too high," said Flores, 21, at a south Phoenix clinic that caters mostly to
"My job isn't sufficient to pay for insurance, pay what they take out (for)
taxes, and put food on the table."
If Flores can't afford private medical insurance, how can she improve her
situation? Vote for a presidential candidate who promises cheaper medication and
better access to insurance, she said.
"If they have enough money to go to war, they should be able to help us with
health care here in our own state," she said.
As of April 1, roughly 424,378 of the 940,000 enrolled in the Arizona Health
Care Cost Containment System were Hispanics, said Frank Lopez, spokesman for the
program, which provides health coverage to the poor.
Lydia Moreno, a volunteer for Wesley Community Center's Centro de Salud near
10th Street and Buckeye Road, helps uninsured Latinos find medical help.
"They have nowhere to go," she said. "When you have no documents, you get
whatever job you can, low-paying with no insurance."
She believes government leaders should allocate more money for education, work
to improve the economy and provide better access to health insurance.
"It's affecting all people, whether they're wealthy or poor, or middle class,"
said Moreno, 55, a pastor in northeast Phoenix.
"Some of the children are not getting quality education, being that they live in
the barrio," she said. "Barrios get the cheapest education and the materials
aren't there for them."
Mercedes Andaverde will vote for the next president based on who is willing to
boost funding for education and improve access to health insurance.
"Saving Head Start is important. And health care is huge for me," said the
uninsured Phoenix mom.
Just as the poll reflects, immigration issues are a lesser concern: "It's a big
problem. If there was a better immigration policy, (immigrants) wouldn't have to
Housing ranking low
What puzzled some Arizona leaders is that only 1 percent of Latinos polled
picked housing as important to them. While Latinos are seeking to buy a home now
more than ever before, they are also being turned way, unable to qualify for
mortgage loans, said Lydia Hernandez, family services director for Habitat for
Humanity in Phoenix.
Hernandez said many factors could have led respondents to play down their
concerns about housing needs, including how much their earn. Only 102 of those
polled earn less than $15,000 a year.
Language skills didn't rank too high, either. That surprised Yzaguirre, the head
"There's been a perception, certainly in Washington," that it's necessary for
candidates to speak Spanish, Yzaguirre told The Arizona Republic Thursday.
But "we've always said, bring substance. It ought to be about the message, not