How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

More Latino voters support Obama, but will they vote?

Election Panorama

Grant Slater/KPCC

Voters fill out ballots in the June 5 presidential primary election at Estrada Court Community Center in Boyle Heights.

A majority of Latinos surveyed say they'd vote for President Barack Obama, but how many of them will make it to the polls? That's one takeaway question from a new Pew Hispanic Center survey, which found a large majority of respondents (69 percent vs. 21 percent) preferring Obama over Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney.

At the same time, fewer Latinos are sure they'll vote. According to the report, 77 percent of Latino registered voters surveyed said they were “absolutely certain” they would vote this year, compared with 89 percent of registered voters in the general population as measured in a different Pew survey.

So what issues will get them to the polls? Unless the focus is on Latino voters in Arizona, it's not going to be immigration. According to the Pew survey, education, along with jobs and the economy, take top billing among Latino voters' concerns nationwide. Healthcare follows closely behind. Immigration, meanwhile, follows a relatively distant fifth, behind the federal budget deficit.

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Nearly three-fourths of US Latinos are citizens, and other handy facts

Immigration Ceremony

Grant Slater/KPCC

A man takes his oath of citizenship at naturalization ceremony for 7,362 immigrants at the Los Angeles Convention Center on June 27.

A post yesterday highlighted the basics from a new report exploring the characteristics of the nation's Latino population: Where most of them live (more than one in ten are in the Los Angeles-Long Beach metro area), who they are (65 percent nationwide are of Mexican birth or descent), and where the highest concentration of them is (Miami), along with a list of the top ten regions in the country that have the most Latino residents.

But the report where these numbers are found, released yesterday by the Pew Hispanic Center, goes much deeper than that. It also digs into socioeconomics, citizenship, education and other factors, and presents stark divisions that exist among the nation's most Latino cities and regions.

There's quite a bit packed into it, so I'll be breaking down the details in different posts. Among today's highlights: The Texas metro regions of San Antonio and Corpus Christi are among those boasting the highest share of Latinos who are native-born, are U.S. citizens, and are fluent English speakers. In terms of education, though, Latinos in some parts of Central California fare the worst, with roughly half lacking a high school diploma, and only a miniscule number holding college degrees.

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Readers weigh in: Does not speaking your family's native tongue make you any less culturally authentic?

After San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro delivered the keynote address during the Democratic National Convention last week, part of the conversation afterward revolved around his lack of fluency in Spanish. Yet as a third-generation Texan of Mexican descent, is someone like Castro really expected to be fluent in the language of his immigrant grandmother?

Not so, if you look at the way language evolves across immigrant generations. According to the Pew Hispanic Center, native language fluency drops off with each generation; among Latinos, only one in four among the third generation are fluent in Spanish. A post earlier this week discussed this, as well as whether not being fluent in the language of one's immigrant ancestors makes one any less culturally "authentic" as a member of that group. After all, while language serves as a cultural bridge, there are other aspects of ancestral culture that get passed on.

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