Latino Opinion Leaders Skeptical of Obama Transition's Responsiveness, Study Says

By Diego Graglia, FI2W web editor

Obama Transition, Inclusive of Latinos?

Not many opinion leaders think the transition is inclusive of Latinos.

Latino opinion leaders are “generally positive” about President-elect Barack Obama, but they are dissatisfied with the responsiveness of his transition team and the Democratic Party to the Latino community, according to a new study by the National Institute for Latino Policy (NILP).

The National Latino Opinion Leaders Survey was conducted between Nov. 8 and 14. Over 900 Latinos in the U.S. and Puerto Rico — community leaders, activists, government officials, business people, and members of nonprofit organizations, religion, academia and the media — took part, according to the institute, which published a summary of the study on Monday through its electronic newsletter.

When asked “if the Obama team was adequately including Latinos in the transition process, 32 percent said ‘no’, 46 percent were not sure or didn’t know, and only 22 percent said ‘yes.’ 53 percent said that the Democratic Party was not being responsive to the needs of the Latino community, as opposed to 21 percent who said it was responsive.

While immigration was an issue that likely energized Latino voters who helped Obama win in key states, it doesn’t look like it’s going to be one of the top priorities for the Obama administration — and Latinos are aware of this. Eighty-four percent of those surveyed do not believe or are not sure that Obama will propose legislation for comprehensive immigration reform in his first 100 days. Only 13 percent think he will.

But Latino opinion leaders seem confident that the incoming president will modify the federal government’s approach to immigration enforcement. Sixty-nine percent of respondents believe that once he is in office, Obama “will call for a moratorium on immigration raids.”

In terms of the issues the new president should deal with first, NILP says,

Three quarters (75 percent) of the Latino opinion leaders feel that Obama’s top priority for the country as a whole should be the economy (including jobs and poverty issues). None felt that the issues of racism, voting rights, housing or U.S. relations with Latin America needed to be a priority for the Obama Administration.

As Feet in 2 Worlds reported, Hispanic advocacy groups are pressuring the Obama transition in favor of a strong Latino representation in the incoming cabinet. New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, in particular, has been mentioned as a candidate for secretary of state — a post for which Hillary Clinton seems now to be the front-runner.

The survey asked who respondents perceived as the most influential Latino leaders in the nation and the results confirmed that Richardson is a favorite among his own: 48 percent consider him the most politically influential Latino today.

“Following far behind with less than 4 percent support,” NILP said, “were Chicago Congressman Luis Gutierrez, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, Bronx Congressman José Serrano, NCLR President Janet Murguia and businessman Federico Peña.”

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