Economics and Finance Faculty Publications and Presentations

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While a good amount of research has been conducted regarding the voting behavior of Hispanics in the United States, there is a dearth of analysis of the underlying ideologies of members of this ethnic group, especially in contrast to their partisan self-identifications. This is especially true of one particular sub-category: Hispanics along the Rio Grande Valley of south Texas, of whom a majority consistently vote Democrat, but whose personal values would seem to make them a natural constituency for issue positions associated with the Republican Party (Garrett, 2010). The goal of this study is to analyze the ideological positions of a subset of Hispanics in the Rio Grande Valley who tend to vote overwhelmingly Democrat: Hispanic college students.

Building on Feldman and Johnston’s (2014) work (see also Gerber et al. [2010]), where they argue that a unidimensional model of ideology provides an incomplete basis for the study of political ideology, we employ two dimensions — economic and social ideology — as the minimum needed to account for domestic policy preference. The core of the study is a taxonomic analysis of an initial survey of approximately 150 students taking Government courses at South Texas College, a public community college in the Rio Grande Valley (RGV) region of south Texas, with a student population that is over 90% Hispanic. Based on survey results, students are placed on a quadrant-based ideological chart, including Left/Liberal, Right/Conservative, Libertarian, and Communitarian/Statist (along with Centrist, which overlaps portions of all four ideological categories). In addition, using recent American National Election Studies (ANES) datasets, we compare how our samples (RGV college students) are different from the general U.S. population, employing a Principal Component Analysis (PCA) to locate each respondent on the quadratic space (social & economic positions).

The impetus for this study was anecdotal evidence in the authors’ classes; we had assumed that, since voters in the Rio Grande Valley tend to heavily favor Democrats, student ideologies would tend towards Liberal/Center-Left. However, we observed that in informal in-class ideological surveys (such as the four-quadrant “Nolan Quiz” published by the Advocates for Self-Government), a surprising number of students tended towards the Libertarian and Left-Libertarian ideologies, along with a significant number in the Center-Right and Conservative quadrants. Our goal was to see if this held true when using a more robust survey and larger samples. It was hypothesized, and the results verified, that Hispanic college students tend to take policy positions that place them more in the Center/Left and Center/Libertarian quadrants.


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National Association of Hispanic and Latino Studies International Research Forum, South Padre Island, Texas October 24, 2016

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