A Portrait of the Adult Children of Immigrants
Chapter 6: Political and Social Issues
Relative to the general public, Asian Americans and, particularly, Hispanics tend to skew more Democratic than Republican in party identification and more liberal than conservative in ideology, according to an analysis of recent Pew Research Center surveys conducted with a nationally representative sample of Hispanics and a separate representative survey of Asian Americans. Second-generation and immigrant Asian Americans hold roughly the same partisan affiliations, though second-generation Hispanics are even more strongly Democratic-leaning than are immigrant Hispanics, however.
Other political orientations paint a complex portrait of the generations. Among Asian Americans, there are no differences in political ideology by generation, but the second generation is more inclined than the first generation to prefer a smaller government with fewer services over a larger, more activist government. Some of that difference may be explained by the younger average age of second-generation Asian Americans relative to Asian immigrants.
Among Hispanics, there is somewhat less support for an activist government among the second generation than Hispanic immigrants, although a clear majority of both generations prefers a larger government with more services to a smaller one providing fewer services. But more of the second-generation Hispanics identify themselves as liberal on political issues than do first-generation Hispanics.
Generational differences are pronounced on attitudes about social issues. Second-generation Hispanics and Asian Americans are more liberal than the first generation on attitudes about homosexuality and abortion. Compared with the general public, second-generation Asian Americans are more liberal on both issues. Second-generation Hispanics tend to be more accepting of homosexuality than the general public; their views on abortion are similar to those of the general public.
Both Hispanics and Asian Americans as a whole identify more with the Democratic than the Republican Party. Second-generation Hispanics follow this pattern even more strongly than do Hispanic immigrants.
About six-in-ten (63%) first-generation Hispanics are Democrats or independents who lean toward the Democrats. Second-generation Hispanics even more strongly identify with or lean toward the Democratic Party (71%) than the Republican Party (19%).
Among Asian Americans, there is no difference between first and second generation in party identification. About half identify with or lean toward the Democratic Party (49% among first-generation Asian Americans and 52% among the second generation), while fewer identify with or lean toward the Republican Party (27% among the first generation and 32% among the second). Compared with Hispanics, more Asian Americans do not lean toward either party.
Relative to the general public, both Hispanics and Asian Americans also tilt more toward liberal than conservative views on political issues. Generational differences on political ideology are modest, with second-generation Hispanics somewhat more liberal than immigrant Hispanics and no differences by generation among Asian Americans.
Second-generation Hispanics are more likely than immigrant Hispanics to describe their political views as either “very liberal” or “liberal”—36% versus 27%. The share describing their views as either “very conservative” or “conservative,” however, is not a statistically significant difference—28% for second-generation Hispanics and 34% for the first generation.
Among all U.S. Asians, 31% describe their political views as liberal, while 24% say they are conservative and 37% say they are moderate. There are no significant differences between first- and second-generation Asian Americans on political ideology.
Role of Government
There are modest generational differences on views about the role of government, with second-generation Hispanics and Asian Americans less inclined than the immigrant generation toward an activist government.
About eight-in-ten (83%) first-generation Hispanics say they would rather have a bigger government with more services than a smaller government with fewer services. While still a clear majority, the share opting for an activist government is lower (71%) among second-generation Hispanics. Compared with the general public, both first- and second-generation Hispanics prefer a more activist government.
Among Asian Americans, more of the first generation (57%) than the second generation (47%) prefer a bigger government that provides more services. Second-generation Asian Americans hold views more similar to those of the general public on this issue. However, some of the generational differences among Asian Americans may be related to age. Younger Asian Americans are somewhat less inclined to an activist role of government than are older adults (age 55 and older). When comparing immigrants ages 18 to 34 with their age peers in the second generation, the differences between generations on this item are not statistically significant.
Attitudes on Social Issues
Differences by generation are evident when it comes to attitudes on social issues such as homosexuality and abortion. Second-generation Hispanics and Asian Americans are more accepting of homosexuality and legal abortion relative to the foreign born in each group.
Among Hispanics, about half (53%) of the first generation say that homosexuality should be accepted by society. Among second-generation Hispanics, fully two-thirds (68%) say the same. Second-generation Hispanics are also more accepting of homosexuality than is the general public as a whole.
Generational differences among Asian Americans are even more pronounced. First-generation Asian Americans are divided in their views, with 46% saying homosexuality should be accepted by society and 41% saying it should be discouraged. Second-generation Asian Americans skew strongly toward acceptance, however, with 78% saying homosexuality should be accepted by society. As with Hispanics, second-generation Asian Americans are more accepting of homosexuality than is the general public.
Views on homosexuality also tend to be related to age. While younger Asian-American immigrants tend to be more accepting of homosexuality than older immigrants, the greater acceptance of homosexuality among second-generation Asian Americans versus those in the first generation remains even when controlling for age. (Fully 81% of second-generation Asian Americans ages 18 to 34 say homosexuality should be accepted by society, compared with 58% of the first generation.)
Similar generational differences are evident when it comes to views about abortion, with the second generation of each group holding more liberal positions on this issue.
Foreign-born Hispanics are more conservative than second-generation Hispanics about abortion. About six-in-ten (58%) first-generation Hispanics say abortion should mainly be illegal; a third (33%) say it should mainly be legal. The balance of opinion about abortion among second-generation Hispanics is in the opposite direction, with 55% saying abortion should mainly be legal and four-in-ten (40%) saying it should mainly be illegal. Views about abortion among second-generation Hispanics closely mirror those of the general public.
About two-thirds (66%) of second-generation Asian Americans say abortion should be legal in all or most cases, a sentiment shared by about half (51%) of first-generation Asian Americans. This pattern of greater acceptance of legal abortion among second-generation Asian Americans compared with the first generation holds even when controlling for age. Two-thirds (66%) of second-generation Asian Americans ages 18 to 34 say abortion should mainly be legal, compared with 54% among immigrants in that age group. Support for legal abortion is higher among second-generation Asian Americans than it is among the general public.