The Troubling Study on U.S. Latinos CNN Didn’t Want You to See

EXCLUSIVE: Download findings here.

It is a study that CNN declined to broadcast to the public: a 2012 Hill+Knowlton (H+K) Strategies online survey for the Latino Donor Collaborative (LDC), which concluded that a vast majority of non-Latino Americans have highly skewed and racist perceptions of U.S. Latinos.

The numbers are startling.

For example, one-third think that more than half of the country’s Latinos are undocumented and nearly 80% of non-Latino Americans think Latinos are involved in crime and gang activity.


The report —prepared by Research+Data Insights, H+K’s research division— produced such extremely negative findings about U.S. Latinos, that both H+K and the LDC worked to get CNN to exclusively broadcast the data in May 2012. After two weeks passed, CNN declined to run the data because at the time CNN had policies against publishing results from online surveys, regardless of methodological rigor.

In response to several questions submitted to CNN about why the news network decided to not share the study with the public, a CNN spokesperson said:

We are offered opportunities to participate in things like this with some regularity.  Some we move forward with, some we do not.  It’s unfortunate they [the LDC] have chosen this tactic to get publicity for a poll that clearly they couldn’t find a home for anywhere.

The report was shared with only one other national outlet in early June 2012, but the findings were never broadcast because that outlet was planning to conduct a similar initiative during the 2012 election cycle.


H+K and the LDC decided to create a synopsis of the findings and sent it, including the full report, to Latino Rebels. Charles P. García, a CNN contributor and LDC founding member, also released the synopsis (download here) this week at Hispanicize 2013, with the hope that the study can be discussed and shared with print and broadcast journalists attending the event.

“It’s actually real news that CNN didn’t consider it news that most Americans believe Latinos are criminals,” said García. “Perhaps some executives there are so desensitized with the likes of Lou Dobbs on CNN’s airwaves for so long, with his well-documented hate speech and conspiracy theories against Latinos, that they didn’t consider it news.”

The H+K study consisted of “an online survey among a representative sample of 1,500 non-Hispanic registered voters in the United States between March 15 – 21, 2012.” The company also conducted “two focus groups in each of four U.S. cities” (Phoenix, Houston, Charlotte, and Chicago). According to H+K, “one group in each of the four cities was conducted among lower-to-middle socio-economic status Anglo-Americans and the other group in each of the four cities was conducted among middle-to-upper socio-economic status Anglo-Americans.”

Online surveys are starting to become more standard procedure than the exception. After the presidential election last year, Steven Shepard of The National Journal addressed the issue. Superstar presidential pollster Nate Silver also concluded that online surveys were more accurate during the presidential election than traditional polling.

Nonetheless, many media outlets still question the methodology of online polls. As Shepard wrote:

Despite Silver’s findings, The New York Times‘ polling standards do not permit reporting of online polls because participants for these surveys are not randomly selected, and roughly one-in-five Americans lack Internet access. “In order to be worthy of publication in The Times, a survey must be representative, that is, based on a random sample of respondents,” according with the Times‘ policy, which was shared with National Journal. “Any survey that relies on the ability and/or availability of respondents to access the Web and choose whether to participate is not representative and therefore not reliable,” the policy reads.

David V. Iannelli, President-Global for Research+Data Insights, said his company’s decision to go with an online approach for the LDC survey aligned well with studies that focus on sensitive topics.

“There are benefits to online public opinion research methodologies,” Iannelli said, “particularly when it comes to sensitive issues such as race, ethnicity and sex about which respondents may be less comfortable revealing their true opinions to a live interviewer.


The H+K/LDC synopsis presented three major conclusions:

  1. The majority of non-Hispanics overestimate the proportion of Hispanics in the US who are illegal immigrants.
  2. Misperceptions about illegal immigration amplify anxieties around negative issues.
  3. Non-Hispanic Americans do admire Hispanic traits, but positive messages are rarely captured in media coverage.

The initial findings that most non-Latino Americans have greatly exaggerated views about the number of undocumented Latinos living in the U.S. and associate Latinos with crime and gang-related activity are only two alarming findings from the research. Here are other examples:

  • 75% overestimate the proportion of Latinos who are in the US unauthorized.
  • More than 80% of non-Latino respondents associate Latinos with NOT having learned to speak English.
  • Nearly 80% think Latinos are a burden on the health care system.
  • 70% think Latinos are a burden on the education system.

In addition, the study also focused on how the media covers Latino issues. It concluded the following:

  • Among Latino issues covered by the media, the issue of immigration and the U.S.-Mexican border has he highest volume of negative coverage, with nearly twice the volume of the leading positive issue.
  • Even though the vast majority of non-Latinos associate Latinos with strong family structure, religious values, and being “hard-working,” these positive messages are rarely captured in the media.

It will be hard to dismiss what one of the world’s most respected global brands found in a study that is extremely relevant to the U.S. Latino population and the gross misperceptions it still has to overcome.

“Latinos are not criminals,” said García. “We are an integral part of America, making up the millions of teachers, soldiers, nurses, doctors, firemen and police officers who serve and protect us every day. It’s time for our community, which has the power to tip an election, to aggressively protect our brand.”


Julio (Julito) Ricardo Varela (@julito77 on Twitter) founded (part of Latino Rebels, LLC) in May, 2011 and proceeded to open it up to about 20 like-minded Rebeldes. His personal blog,, has been active since 2008 and is widely read in Puerto Rico and beyond. He pens columns on LR regularly. In the last 12 months, Julito represented the Rebeldes on CBS’ Face the NationNPR,  UnivisionForbesand The New York Times.

Dear Mississippi Media: Yes, “Wetback” Is a Racial Slur

File this one under the “We Have Now Seen Everything” category. In a local news article from southwestern Mississippi, reporter Caleb Bedillion was writing a dry standard story about corporate tax breaks.


Rather boring stuff until you get to this part of the story, which quoted local county official Nolan Williamson. Wait for this one:

Williamson further mocked the idea that corporate tax breaks serve an economic development purpose and suggested that he if received a tax break, he could benefit the local economy.

“I might hire me two or three wetbacks, and I’d create jobs,” said Williamson, utilizing a term often considered a slur for Mexican immigrants in the United States.

Williamson’s quote was shocking, but what about the reporter? We are still trying to think of those situations where such a term is NOT a racial slur. And seriously, no one said anything?

#NoMames: AHL Team to Celebrate Hispanic Heritage Weekend With Racist Jerseys and Maracas


Deadspin reported that the Rockford IceHogs, the American Hockey League affiliate of the Chicago Blackhawks, will be holding a Los IceHogs Night on November 16 in "celebration" of Hispanic Heritage Weekend. Besides wearing some of the most awful and racist jerseys ever, fans will also be getting the jerseys, free maracas, and there will even be a visit from Dora the Explorer. Are you kidding us? How many times can we say #NoMames on this one?

Right now if you go to the IceHogs official site, you will be greeted with this:

The event is being sponsored by Corona, and we are wondering if a Speedy Gonzales Zamboni machine will be clearing the ice as well. Talk about a marketing execution gone haywire. Like the Deadspin piece says: 

The idea of Hispanic Heritage Weekend was probably well-intentioned, but the end product is a disaster. Only dumb white people who can't think of a good Halloween costume still consider sombreros and mustaches to be signifiers of Hispanic culture.

We are reaching out to the IceHogs today for comment. Once we hear from them, we will share their thoughts.

The team's Twitter did post the following tweet, asking people what they they thought about the uniforms.

No, no nos gusta.

The “White Hispanic” Label: Yes, People, Racism Is a Latino Thing, Too

Over the past few weeks, we have read A LOT about the fact that George Zimmerman is not "white" but that he is "Hispanic" (even though when initial media reports of his February 26 shooting of Trayvon Martin called him "white"). It started when Zimmerman's father, Bob Zimmerman, shared this information in a letter to the Orlando Sentinel, and within hours, bloggers (mostly conservative ones) were quick to emphasize that Zimmerman's Hispanicity: You see, race baiters, he is NOT white? He is Hispanic! Shame on you, liberal mainstream media! You were quick to play the race card. White people are not racists!

Then, when that all died out (well, except for on forums that still have some choice words for Zimmerman's and ethnic background), we started reading mainstream reports calling Zimmerman a "white Hispanic." Yes, you New York Times, and others. And then FOX NEWS' Bernard Goldberg went off.

We asked ourselves: why? Why the change and why was the label used? Why even describe Zimmerman's ethnicity? What does it matter? Why is Goldberg a tool who has no clue about Latinos? Zimmerman shot Trayvon Martin. He had a record of paranoia with "suspicious" (code word: Black) people. He is of Peruvian descent. So what.

Because, conservative bloggers and mainstream media outlets: Hispanics can be racist, too.

In fact, the basic social and economic tenets of Colonial Latin America were based on race. And classism in Latin American is still racially charged. Many tell the story of 'knowing your place," and it is one of Latin America's ugliest secrets, one that recently has started to be discussed with more honesty.

But back to Zimmerman, the White Hispanic. We scratched our heads about this and kept asking ourselves why do members of the mainstream media insist on using this term when reporting in Zimmerman and why did people like Goldberg felt the need to "attack" the liberal media?

CNN contributor Ruben Navarrette Jr. offered his take, and quite frankly, his concluding paragraph should have stopped after word Hispanic, because after starting strong with his reason as to WHY the term was used, he failed miserably at the end:

…I think [the mainstream media] were looking for a way to avoid what would have been an embarrassing about-face. They didn't want to stand up and say: "We were wrong. Without having all the facts, we made certain assumptions about the suspect. And now it turns out that it's not simple, that this story is more complicated than we thought and that this suspect is both white and Hispanic." So they turned to the term white Hispanic.

It is also possible that some in the media are afraid to frame the story as Hispanic versus African-American. I understand that. Relations between the nation's largest minority and the group that used to hold that title are tense enough without adding fuel to the fire.

Whatever the reason for using this term, I don't like it. And I don't have any use for it. Are we now going to refer to people as white Hispanics and black Hispanics? Given that my complexion is a shade lighter than brown, should I be referred to as beige Hispanic? Where does this end?

Americans need to discuss race and ethnicity in serious ways. The tragic death of a young person is a serious issue. Everything about this story must be taken seriously. Distorting the language shows we're not serious people.

So, Ruben, call out the media for goofing up but then say that they didn't want to frame the story as Hispanic vs. African-American? So, when stories like this one out of Pasadena happen (and this one is awful), the media can't talk about the fact that the 911 caller who lied to police which lead to the death of an unarmed Black teen in Pasadena was Hispanic? As for Navarrette's comment about white Hispanics and black Hispanics, well, isn't that accurate to some? Race is part of the greater cultural complexity of what it is to be Latino in the United States. As for being afraid that you will be called a "beige Hispanic" (kind of a silly overreaction), Navarrette can use "mestizo" or "throwback" or whatever else he wants to use.

Come on, we even have a case of a Black Hispanic becoming a White Hispanic. Exhibit A right here:

The point is: race and culture are interwoven in Hispanic/Latino communities, and it has never been a harmonious fit. To deny that reality is to deny that we as Latinos can be our own worst enemy when it comes to racism. If we aren't bombarded with Univision and Telemundo shows with White, more light-skinned actors living the lap of luxury, all we need to do is look at popular culture: Latinos promote whiteness more than ever. They sell a world of whiteness, and have done so for decades. And that is wrong.

So, yes, Navarrette's argument fails at the end of his column and Goldberg is on another planet (don't you just love when media experts try to lecture others about Latinos?), and since we still didn't feel satisfied, we just asked our readers and community members. Here are just a few of their responses:

White Hispanic is the appropriate census jargon. Culturally, it's offensive to socially conscious Latinos, but the context is accurate.

The irony here is that those of us who fall on the Caucasian end of the Latino color spectrum are not considered white by non-Latino/Hispanic whites.

Media manipulating society – if they can divide us against each other, it's easier to control us. Interesting how this phrase has the potential to divide people more. "White" Hispanic vs "Black" Hispanic or just plain Hispanic? Or the addition of Hispanic, just to remind everyone he is not really white?

I'm not a big fan of the term Hispanic because it's a census term and label; NOT a culture… Our combined, tapestry of cultures, IMHO, falls under the beautiful, vast umbrella of us all being 'Latinos.' To me, the word 'Latino' implies diversity and unity, whereas the term 'Hispanic' screams government labeling.

To other folks I am perceived as Italian, Portuguese, Mexican, South America, never of Puerto Rican antecedents, and never told I am a White Hispanic. My birth certificate says White under Race. I am la Trigueña in my immediate family.

My husband is Caucasian and I'm Peruvian, so would that term be appropriate for my two kids since they are half and half. I mean I always check the Hispanic/Latino box for ethnicity for them and white for race for them also. Also to me, they should celebrate both cultures equally. Does that make me a sellout of sorts? I don't understand what the appropriate term would be for them. I would take that as a description of my beautiful daughter who is Half Mexican and half Irish. I don't take offense. The way we are so mixed these days. I believe the more we mix, the more beautiful and smarter our children are. :) It would be nice if the media would not. Say the person's race race has nothing to do with the crime you commit there's racism even with our own race people that dislike what they are very sad. But I do remember the days that when a minority committed a crime you would just hear black man Hispanic man full description and when a white person conifer a crime they would run it by so fast with no description the media has a lot to do with how America sees us.

The media insists on slapping racial (and racist) labels on people, plain and simple. It doesn't matter what "race" Zimmerman is…an idiot is an idiot. What was a Neighborhood Watch Volunteer doing with a gun in the first place? But I digress…What will the media do next? Perhaps label Mr. Zimmerman as "A descendant of Sephardic Jews"? Anything to bulk up a word count or cater to the lowest common denominator.

For me it doesn't make a difference to be a Spanish white man from Spain, who cares? racism is racism, and black, brown or white Spanish doesn't matter, if anyone wants to make a difference, we are a culture all Spanish people, have to make the difference, because white America, will do anything to divide us. They will say, you are from Spain and you are better than Mexicans or Puerto Ricans or the other way around. This is the time, regardless of our ideas, when we have to stand together, because if we don't, tomorrow may be your son, brother etc, just remember, they divide you today, tomorrow it won't matter if you are better or not, you are just that, Spanish or Latino

‎"White Hispanic" – a person who is able to change a Latino surname in exchange for a 'proper' English one to avoid discrimination and is able through his or her physical appearance to assimilate into the politically dominant culture -white.

The real issue is this: labels do nothing to help us dissect a tragedy. But we can still have serious discussions about race in America, because no matter who you who are and with whom you identify with, racism affects us all, and for some, it can lead to tragic consequences.