Hispanic Voters & Education: The Great Equalizer

Public Opinion Strategies conducted a set of special focus groups among Hispanic voters in Las Vegas, NV.  Each group was conducted among 12 respondents for three hours, allowing us to use different projective techniques and a much deeper dive into opinions and beliefs than traditional focus groups.  While the groups were conducted in English, they were moderated by a Spanish-speaking discussion leader.

One feature of this last election in the minds of the Hispanic voters in our focus groups – Democrats were the party willing to “help” you again and give you loans so that everyone can afford to go to college.  Republicans by default were cast in the role of bad guy out to “hurt” average Americans by denying them access to greater opportunity.

On K-12 education issues, the differences were less clear to our focus group participants.   They could not even say for certain which party was for charter schools or vouchers.  Yet, they tell us in the groups that education is an issue they care about DEEPLY as the pathway to a better life.

We showed them a video clip of former Governor Jeb Bush talking about his success as Governor transforming the education system in Florida.  Click here to view this clip.  Here is what the participants say:

  • “He’s trying to make it equal.”
  • “He’s not for the higher or lower class.”
  • “All people can become somebody in life with education.”
  • “Sounding more like they’re [Republicans] for the people.”

It’s certainly what these Hispanic voters consider surprising stuff.  Not being satisfied with the poor remaining poor, or finding unacceptable the achievement gap between Anglo and African American or Hispanic students – hearing it from a Republican is powerfully new information.

There’s a common theme starting to weave its way through these recent blog pieces and it has to do with this simple notion of “equality.”  Outcomes may not be equal, but the opportunities should be.  Everyone deserves a fair shake no matter their start in life.  And, education is the greatest equalizer of all.

Governor Bush also has a leadership style they appreciate – straight-forward, strong, and a passion they can feel.  The idea that we can’t always live in “namby-pamby Land” when it comes to doing what’s right is on-target with what these groups expect from their leaders on an issue they care about so deeply.  As with Governor Martinez noted in the “Moving Beyond Opportunity” blog piece last week, these participants comment following Bush’s video segment, “I didn’t know Republicans were like that.”

Click here to see other posts in this series.

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